Therapeutic plasmapheresis for hypertriglyceridemia-associated acute pancreatitis: case series and review of the literature

Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Apr;8(4):59-65. doi: 10.1177/2042018817695449. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Background: Severe hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) is the third leading cause of acute pancreatitis (AP) in the United States. The current standard of care includes management of HTG using pharmacological therapy. More recently, plasmapheresis has been proposed as a therapeutic tool for decreasing triglyceride (TG) levels, especially in critically ill patients. Few studies are available to ascertain overall benefits of plasmapheresis over traditional management.

Objective: To analyze the outcomes of patients treated with plasmapheresis for severe HTG-associated pancreatitis.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of three patients with severe HTG- associated (TGs greater than 1000 mg/dl; 11.29 mmol/l) AP at the Methodist University Hospital. All the patients underwent plasmapheresis as part of their treatment.

Results: The average TG level before plasmapheresis was 3532 mg/dl (range: 2524-4562 mg/dl; 39.9 mmol/l; range: 28.5-51.6 mmol/l). All patients made a full recovery, with a significant improvement in TG levels after plasmapheresis. The mean number of sessions was 1.3 (range 1-2), and mean TG level after plasmapheresis was 1051 mg/dl (range: 509-1771 mg/dl; 11.9 mmol/l; range: 5.8-20 mmol/l). After the first session, the average reduction of TG level was 2481 mg/dl (range 753-3750 mg/dl; 28 mmol/l; range: 8.5-42.4 mmol/l) or approximately 70%. None of the patients developed complications related to plasmapheresis.

Conclusions: Plasmapheresis can be an effective and rapid treatment option in patients with severe HTG and complications. However, further research, including randomized controlled studies, is necessary.

Keywords: hypertriglyceridemia; lipoprotein lipase; pancreatitis; plasmapheresis.

Publication types

  • Review