Leukapharesis To Treat Leukemia

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If you have been diagnosed with leukemia, your doctor may have recommended a specialized treatment called leukapheresis. Still, may people are not familiar with this procedure. 

Here is a bit of information about leukapharesis and how it works. 

Why Is Leukapharesis Needed?

The blood of a leukemia patient may include a high number of leukemia cells. These abnormal cells can interfere with the proper circulation of the blood, leading to a heart attack or respiratory issues. 

Even if a patient is being treated with chemotherapy drugs to lower the number of leukemia cells in the blood, the drugs may require several days to sufficiently reduce the number of cancer cells. However, leukapheresis can quickly lower the quantity of leukemia cells in the blood.

What Does Leukapharesis Entail?

The fast-acting procedure is often conducted before chemotherapy is administered. The treatment includes the passing of the patient's blood through a specialized machine to remove leukemia cells and other white blood cells. The blood that remains, including the plasma, is pumped back into the bloodstream.

During leukapharesis, you are permitted to rest in bed or recline in a chair. Two separate intravenous lines are inserted. The first line is used for the removal of the blood. The second line is used to return the blood to your body.

In some instances, one centralized catheter that includes both intravenous lines may be placed in the neck region in lieu of two intravenous lines in the patient's arms.

Is Leukapheresis Painful?

Leukapharesis does not cause pain. However, as the blood is being filtered, the levels of calcium in the blood may decline, causing a tingling sensation or numbness in certain areas of the body, such as the feet, hands, and mouth. If calcium levels become too low, the mineral can be administered to alleviate any unsavory symptoms.

Is Leukapheresis a Standalone Procedure to Treat Leukemia?

Leukapheresis is usually used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Although leukapheresis does work to rapidly reduce the number of leukemia cells in the blood, it does not rid of the body of the abnormal cells completely. Thus, additional treatments are needed to actually kill the cells to prevent their numbers from climbing again.

Is Leukapheresis Only Used for Leukemia?

Leukapharesis is not used solely for leukemia. The procedure may be performed to harvest healthy blood and stem cells from healthy donors. The resulting product, called leukopaks, include a high concentration of various blood cells, such as plasma, lymphocytes, monocytes, red blood cells, and platelets.

To learn more about leukapheresis, schedule a consultation with a physician in your local area.