Autoimmune Disease Management 101: Fighting Back

A Guide For Those Wanting Information On Leukapheresis

Leukapheresis is a process that removes abnormal white blood cells from blood and then returns the rest of the blood to a person's body. Someone might be a candidate for this procedure if they have a significantly high white blood cell count. To learn more about leukapheresis, read the info here.

What does too high of a white blood cell count do?

When someone has too high of a count, it can negatively affect their circulation. It can also cause other symptoms like fevers, bruising easily, excessive bleeding, and pain. It's important to note that a very high count of white blood cells indicates a problem. Some possible issues include an infection somewhere in the body, COPD, auto-immune disorders like Crohn's, emotional stress, physical stress, or leukemia. This is why a high white blood cell count will be investigated with the use of tests and exams.

How do you prepare?

The patient will likely be asked to come in for a pre-procedure visit, unless they have been admitted into a hospital. During a pre-procedure visit, the patient will undergo an exam in which their vitals will be taken. Also, an assessment of their veins will be done to make sure their veins are going to accommodate the procedure. If not, then a central venous catheter may be able to be used for the procedure.

The patient will also be given a set of instructions to follow to prepare for leukapheresis. These instructions can include things like staying away from caffeinated beverages that can cause dehydration, drinking plenty of water, and wearing a certain type of clothing, as well as bringing in required forms and/or other types of documentation.

What should you expect?

It's important to know what to expect before the procedure; this can alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress. The patient will remain awake during the procedure, and it will generally last at least a couple of hours, so bringing a good book or something else to do that you can do without moving around can help.

While the procedure isn't painful, some do complain that it's hard for them to remain sitting or lying down in the same position for the duration of the process. This is where having something to do can take a person's mind off it and make things seem to go by faster.

The patient will have a tube that goes into both of their arms. One of them will be used to draw the blood out or their body, while the other will be used to put the treated blood back into their body. Once the blood is drawn out, it will be put through the machine that removes the white blood cells.

The treated blood then goes back in the body, which will help to lower the white blood cell count. Since the body continuously produces blood, this procedure is a temporary fix because more white blood cells will be produced until the underlying condition that's causing this to happen has been treated or controlled.