Clinical experience with maintenance therapeutic plasma exchange in refractory generalized myasthenia gravis

J Clin Apher. 2021 Oct;36(5):727-736. doi: 10.1002/jca.21923. Epub 2021 Jul 9.


Background: Despite the availability of several immunomodulatory therapies, about 20% of myasthenia gravis (MG) patients remain refractory to conventional treatments. There is limited evidence to support the use of maintenance therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) therapy for refractory generalized MG.

Methods: Retrospective chart review of 14 patients with refractory generalized MG treated for 12 months with maintenance TPE therapy. Outcome measures were myasthenia gravis composite (MGC) score, myasthenia gravis activities of daily living (MG-ADL), number of acute exacerbations, medication changes, and adverse events. Data were collected at 3 monthly intervals for 12 months before and after initiation of TPE therapy.

Results: Clinically meaningful reductions in mean MG-ADL (>2 points) (mean MG-ADL score: 9.9 ± 0.5; 12-month pre-TPE to 5.2 ± 0.9; 12-month post-TPE) and MGC (>3 points) (mean MGC score: 25.2 ± 1.6; 12-month pre-TPE to 11.7 ± 1.4; 12-month post-TPE) were observed at 3 months following initiation of TPE and were maintained up to 12 months in all patients. After 12 months of TPE therapy, all patients had a significant reduction in daily prednisone and pyridostigmine use. Patients previously on IVIG or rituximab therapy were successfully weaned off both treatments. There was a significant reduction in acute MG exacerbations; 7.8 ± 1.1 mean exacerbations/patient (12-month pre-TPE) to 2 ± 1.1 mean exacerbations/patient (12-month post-TPE).

Conclusion: Over a period of 12 months, maintenance TPE therapy improved MG-ADL, and MGC with decreased immunosuppressant requirement, while being well-tolerated.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; myasthenia gravis; therapeutic plasma exchange.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Myasthenia Gravis / complications
  • Myasthenia Gravis / therapy*
  • Plasma Exchange / adverse effects
  • Plasma Exchange / methods*
  • Pyridostigmine Bromide / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Pyridostigmine Bromide