Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease which commonly involves the kidneys. Despite great improvement in survival over the past years due to immunosuppressive therapy, renal failure remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality. In view of the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis, the use of less toxic and more specific ways of treatment such as the extracorporeal removal of pathogenetically relevant autoantibodies seems rational. On the basis of currently available studies, plasma exchange used alone or as an adjunct to conventional immunosuppressive therapy offers no clear benefit over standard immunosuppression in patients with active lupus nephritis and therefore cannot be recommended. However, although not proven, plasmapheresis might be beneficial in patients with acute life-threatening disease, for which high-dose immunosuppressive therapy may not be possible, or as an adjunct procedure for patients not responding to conventional therapy. Rather than the unselective removal of plasma, adsorption procedures allow the selective or specific removal of immunoglobulins, which seems to be a more reasonable approach in lupus nephritis. The results of the first clinical trials using different adsorption columns seem promising, but their use cannot be recommended until well-designed, case-controlled studies have been performed to prove their usefulness and cost effectiveness in lupus nephritis. So far, clear-cut recommendations regarding type of adsorption column, intensity and duration of treatment, and accompanying immunosuppressive treatment cannot be given.