Complications in patients treated with plasmapheresis in the intensive care unit

Anaesthesiol Intensive Ther. 2013 Jan-Mar;45(1):7-13. doi: 10.5603/AIT.2013.0002.


Introduction: Plasmapheresis is one of the methods of extracorporeal blood purification involving the removal of inflammatory mediators and antibodies. The procedure is used in a variety of conditions, including autoimmune diseases. The aim of the present study was to analyse the incidence of plasmapheresis-related complications in patients treated in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Methods: The analysis involved 370 plasmapheresis procedures in 54 patients. The data were collected from patients' medical records, including procedure protocols.

Results: The most common diseases treated with plasmapheresis included: myasthenia gravis (33.3%), Guillain-Barre syndrome (14%), Lyell's syndrome (9.3%), systemic lupus erythematosus (7.4%), and thrombotic thromcytopenic purpura (7.4%). The adverse side effects observed most frequently during plasma filtration were: fall in arterial blood pressure (8.4% of all procedures), arrhythmias (3.5%), sensations of cold with temporarily elevated temperature and paresthesias (1.1%, each). In most cases the symptoms were mild and transient. Severe and life-threatening episodes, i.e. shock, fall in arterial blood pressure requiring pressor amines, persistent arrhythmias and haemolysis, developed in 2.16% of procedures.

Conclusions: Plasmapheresis can be considered a relatively safe method of treatment of ICU patients. Continuous observation and proper monitoring of patients provided by highly trained medical personnel are essential for its safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasmapheresis / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies