What is apheresis?

This process allows for the collection of specific blood components which, depending on your condition, are replaced with similar components received from blood donors, removed and stored for later use, or discarded.

Using apheresis, blood is temporarily removed from the vein and put through an apheresis machine which separates the blood.

What is apheresis used for?

Apheresis may be used for the collection of donor blood components or for the removal of parts of the blood that might contain disease-provoking elements. Apheresis may be used in the treatment of blood cancers and a range of other blood disorders.

Autologous stem cell collection

Autologous stem cell collection is the collection of a patients own stem cells prior to high dose chemotherapy. These cells are then returned to the patient after their chemotherapy, this is called an 'autologous transplant'. Autologous stem cell collection may be used in the treatment of:

  • symptomatic myeloma
  • amyloidosis
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • germ cell tumour
  • sarcoma.

Volunteer donor collection

Blood components are collected from healthy volunteer donors. These components include:

  • stem cells – cells that can divide and form all different types of blood cells, replenishing healthy cells
  • granulocytes – white blood cells that fight infection. Neutrophils are the most common granulocytes
  • lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that help in immune defence.

Red cell exchange

Red blood cell exchange is the process where a patients red blood cells are removed and replaced with donor red blood cells. Red blood cell exchange can be used in the treatment of sickle cell disease.

Plasma exchange

Plasma is the liquid part of your blood. During a plasma exchange a patients own plasma is removed and replaced by plasma from a donor or by a plasma substitute. Plasma exchange can be used in the treatment of:

  • hyperviscosity syndrome (Waldenstroms macroglobulinaemia and myeloma)
  • microangiopathic anaemia (TTP/HUS)
  • myasthenia gravis
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • other sever autoimmune/antibody driven neuropathies.


Photopheresis is a process where the patients blood is removed, treated with a photosensitising agent and ultraviolet light and returned to the patient. A photosensitising agent is a drug that is activated by ultraviolet light to treat the diseased components of the blood. Photopheresis may be used in the treatment of:

  • graft versus host disease
  • cutaneous T cell lymphoma
  • Sezary syndrome
  • solid organ transplant rejection.

Cells for novel therapies as a part of clinical trials

Apheresis can be used for the collection of cells and treatment of patients by novel therapies as a part of clinical trials. These novel therapies include the collection of and treatment with:

  • car T cells
  • dendritic cells
  • regenerative medicine.