- On June 29, 2017 /
- By davita /
- In Health Tips
What is Plasma?
Plasma is the fluid portion of the blood which lets the circulation of red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets. It contains mostly of water in which many chemical compounds are liquefied. Plasma also makes possible chemical communication among different parts of the body by carrying minerals, hormones, vitamins, and antibodies. Normal plasma has a yellow color when it is experiential through a test tube or bag where blood has established.
What is Plasma Exchange?
Plasma Exchange is a patient procedure involving the separation and removal of the plasma from the blood in order to remove a disease substance circulating in the plasma. The RBCs, WBCs, and platelets are returned to the patient, along with a prescribed replacement fluid. Merely stated, the “old plasma” is removed and replaced by the “new plasma.” In other words, there has been a plasma exchange.
Why Plasma Exchange is necessary?
Certain diseases make substances which mix throughout the body in the plasma portion of the blood. In some diseases these substances are called “auto-antibodies”, or antibodies which bout healthy cells or tissue. These auto-antibodies are formed by a mix-up in the body’s immune system. Other diseases cause an overproduction of protein which results in slowing down the blood flow (in the same way that thick liquids move more slowly that thin ones).
A physician will decide if it is desirable to remove a large quantity of the auto-antibodies or excess proteins so accompanying medical therapy is more effective in controlling the disease.
Only in a few diseases is it possible to remove the specific substance causing the disease. However, it is possible to remove the plasma which contains the substance. The plasma is replaced with donated fresh frozen plasma or, more commonly, physiologically acceptable replacement fluids, such as a mixture of albumin and normal saline.
What happens during Plasma Exchange?
Plasma exchange is accomplished with a medical device called a blood cell separator. Blood cell separators use a centrifuge or a membrane filter to separate plasma from cellular blood components. Qualified medical personnel operate the blood cell separator and monitor the condition of the patient at all times. Blood is usually drawn from a patient’s arm vein by a needle which is attached to a blood tubing set.
Anticoagulant is added to the blood to keep it from clotting. The blood and anticoagulant enter the compartment of the blood cell separator where the plasma is separated from the cellular components and pumped into a collection bag. The cellular components are drawn from the compartment and a replacement fluid prescribed by the physician is added to replace the volume of plasma which is removed. The mix of cellular components and replacement fluid is returned to the patient, usually through a needle in the other arm.
The latest technology blood cell separators accomplish all the above steps in an automated, continuous, and safe manner. The sterile tubing sets and needles are used one time only and then discarded.
Some Difficulties Which May Arise
Sometimes it is not possible to attain adequate blood flow from veins in the arms. Therefore, alternative blood access, which might include some minor surgery, will be necessary. Even though the latest technology blood cell separators remove only a small portion of blood from the patient at any one time, the changes in blood volume or the type of replacement fluid utilized may make some patients feel dizzy or light-headed. Patients should immediately tell the medical staff if they begin to feel uncomfortable.
The anticoagulant used to keep the blood from clotting and certain types of replacement fluids might cause a patient to notice a sour taste in the mouth, tingling around the lips, or sharp pains, like pins being stuck in the fingers or toes. Patients should immediately tell the medical staff if they have any of these symptoms.