NYU Langone doctors may recommend a procedure called plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who have had a significant relapse that is not responsive to intravenous (IV) steroids.
Blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets that are suspended in a fluid called plasma. In people with MS, proteins that are attacking tissue in the body can be found in blood plasma. Removing these proteins can help to stop the relapse and improve symptoms.
Plasma exchange can be done as an outpatient or inpatient procedure. The doctor inserts into your body an IV catheter that is connected to a machine that withdraws some of the blood. During this process, any cells in the plasma that are causing the autoimmune attack are eliminated, and “cleaned” plasma and other blood components are returned to the body.
Your doctor may recommend that you have plasma exchange on an outpatient or inpatient basis every day for five to seven days. Each treatment usually takes several hours to complete. People who have had relapses that are unresponsive to corticosteroid medications typically improve significantly after plasmapheresis.