Southern Ohio Medical Center recently added a new service called therapeutic apheresis. Therapeutic apheresis is a procedure where a patient’s blood is taken from their body and centrifuged in a sterile machine. The machine separates the blood and cleans out the unwanted parts such as “bad plasma” or too many white blood cells. Then the “clean” blood is put back into the body, similar to dialysis.
Dr. Rosenberg, a neurologist at SOMC, requested that this service be provided to his patients so they wouldn’t have to travel out of town for so many treatments. Before SOMC provided this service, therapeutic apheresis patients would have to travel as many as two times a week to larger cities for their treatments, often putting a strain on their health and family members.
“We saw that there was a need for this service and we spent a year trying to implement it,” Bridget Scott, director of Laboratory Services, said. “I was there to see our first patient get his treatment. It was very touching to actually see the difference it made for him and his family. Even if it’s just for a few patients, all the hard work was worth it.”
The purpose of therapeutic apheresis is to remove a component of the blood that contributes to a disease state. If a patient has a disease where the antibodies in their blood are attacking their body, the treatment will remove the plasma that contains the harmful antibodies and replaces it with a saline solution or donor plasma. The red blood cell exchange can treat sickle cell disease.
Therapeutic apheresis can treat many diseases and is often used as a secondary form of treatment. SOMC has partnered with a contract company called Fresenius to provide this service. The most common neuromuscular disorder treated with therapeutic apheresis is myasthenia gravis.
Lee Hammond, 69, of Rardin is currently being treated for myasthenia gravis at SOMC. He has had plasmapheresis treatments once a week for three to four hours for a year and a half.
“I have always had a good experiences at SOMC and I’m very thankful that I don’t have to travel out of town now, it’s a lot easier on my family, friends and neighbors,” Hammond said. “Lu, my nurse, takes great care of me and I feel much better the day after my treatment.”
“Our patients are referred through their neurologist or hematologist and then they work with central scheduling to schedule the patient’s treatments,” Beverley Meadows, transfusion services manager at SOMC, said.
Meadows explained that the SOMC contract nurses are currently undergoing more in-depth training to offer therapeutic apheresis to a variety of patients with a vast array of autoimmune diseases such as sickle cell disease and oncology patients.