Therapeutic Plasma Exchange: Core Curriculum 2023

Am J Kidney Dis. 2023 Apr;81(4):475-492. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2022.10.017. Epub 2023 Feb 10.


From producing individual blood components for transfusion to the removal of pathogenic substances, apheresis is a cornerstone of modern medical therapies. The use of therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE), in which plasma and its soluble constituents are removed from the body in exchange for a replacement fluid, can be organ- and life-saving in many diseases. Given the notable similarities between TPE and hemodialysis, the nephrologist is often responsible for managing TPE. As such, one must be familiar with the technologies, approach to therapy, indications for use, and complications. TPE uses centrifugation or membrane separation technologies, with the latter able to be performed with certain hemodialysis machines familiar to the nephrologist. Furthermore, primary kidney diseases such as anti-glomerular basement membrane disease are frequently associated with autoantibodies, potentially making them ideal candidates for TPE. Nevertheless, the use of TPE in many kidney diseases is controversial because of the lack of supporting evidence. This review discusses TPE from the perspective of a nephrologist responsible for prescribing and managing TPE, as well as nephrologists engaged in the care of patients undergoing the procedure.

Keywords: Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE); albumin; anti-GBM disease; anticoagulation; apheresis; extracorporeal therapies; frozen plasma; glomerular basement membrane (GBM); intoxication; kidney transplantation; plasmapheresis; replacement fluid; review; thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA); vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Glomerular Basement Membrane Disease* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases* / therapy
  • Plasma
  • Plasma Exchange* / methods
  • Plasmapheresis