Plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis, is a procedure in
which the liquid portion (plasma) of your blood is separated from
the red and white blood cells and replaced with a saltwater (saline) and
albumin (protein) solution. It removes antibodies and other
potentially harmful factors from the bloodstream. Plasma exchange requires
access to large veins, which may not be possible in some people, and it may be
risky in older people or in some people who have heart disease.
Intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) is a medicine often
used to boost the body’s immune system and make it better able to fight
disease. Immune globulins (also called gamma globulins) are proteins in human
blood. These proteins are antibodies, which help the body’s immune system
recognize and destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses. Because
immune globulin is made from donated blood fluids, it is sometimes in short
supply and may not be available everywhere.
One of these treatments is often started immediately after
you have been diagnosed if you seem to be getting worse. Early treatment may
reduce your recovery time.
Plasma exchange and IVIG appear to be
equally effective when given early in the course of the disease. They also have
similar costs. The choice between one or the other treatment may depend on what
is available and most practical.