Apheresis (The James)


What is Apheresis?

Apheresis (a-fer-ee-sis) can be used to treat many types of diseases and health conditions. Apheresis means "to take away". This procedure is done to take away, or remove certain cells from your blood. Apheresis may also be used to collect and save certain cells, which can then be used later. 

There are several types of apheresis procedures. Each type removes a different part of the blood. These may include:

  • Leukapheresis - removes white blood cells
  • Lymphapheresis - removes lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell)
  • Stem cell apheresis - removes stem cells
  • Plasmapheresis - removes plasma (the liquid part of blood)
  • Plateletpheresis - removes platelets (blood cell that helps blood to clot)

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Each person responds differently to apheresis. If this is your first time to have this procedure, plan to have someone drive you home.
  • Eat a meal just before you come to the hospital.
  • Use the bathroom before your procedure begins.

Where is the procedure done?

The Apheresis Unit is located in room A176 on the 1st floor of The James Cancer Hospital (460 W. 10th Avenue).

How is the procedure done?

For the procedure, 2 intravenous (IV) catheters are used. An IV catheter is a long, thin, flexible tube that is place in your vein. One IV is used to remove the blood and the other IV is used to return the blood to you. You will have an IV catheter placed in each arm. If you have a double lumen central venous catheter (CVC), this can be used instead.

During this procedure, your blood will flow out one IV site, through the tubing and into the machine. The machine separates the part of your blood to be removed. Only a small amount of your blood is in the machine at any one time. The remaining blood flows back into your body through the other IV catheter.

A specialty trained nurse will be with you during and after your procedure. Apheresis can take 2 to 6 hours to complete. The length of time depends on the type of procedure you are having. When the procedure is done, you will be removed from the machine. If you had IVs placed in your arms, they will be removed and covered with a dressing. 

A blood thinner (anticoagulant) is slowly added to your blood during the procedure. This is given to prevent clotting. This helps prevent your blood from clotting. Side effects from the blood thinner may include slight tingling around your mouth, chest vibrations and a cold or chilled feeling. Calcium is given to help prevent these symptoms. If you have side effects, tell your nurse right away.

Depending on the reason for the apheresis procedure, it may be done more than one time. Your health care team will tell you if you need to return for another procedure.


What are the possible side effects of this procedure?

Each person may respond differently to this procedure. Possible side effects may include:

  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Nausea
Tell the nurse right away if your have any of these side effects.

What can I expect after the procedure?

  • You may feel tired after your procedure. Limit your activity for 12 hours after your procedure.
  • Your arms may feel sore from being in one position during your procedure.
  • Unless told otherwise by your doctor, drink 8 to 10 cups of non-caffeinated fluid each day to stay hydrated.
  • If you had IVs placed in your arms, keep the bandages dry and in place for at least 5 hours after your procedure. Do not lift anything heavy or exercise during this time.
  • If you get dizzy, lie down and put your feet above your head, if possible.

When should I call the Apheresis Department?

  • If you develop any redness or pain at your IV sites or if you have any questions or concerns, call The Apheresis Department:
    • Monday - Friday, 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, call 614-293-8672.
    • After hours or weekends, call the hospital operator at 614-293-8000 and ask the operator to page the pathology resident on call. 
  • Talk with your doctor about what side effects may happen and when you should call to report a problem. 
    • If you have a life-threatening medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 


© June 24, 2019. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit cancer.osu.edu/PFRC