Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are part of the blood that help with clotting. If a patient has too few platelets, bleeding can occur. However, too many platelets can lead to clotting problems, such as stroke.
Platelet depletion, also known as therapeutic thrombocytapheresis, can be used to reduce the amount of platelets in the blood. This is a non-surgical procedure that requires insertion of either two intravenous catheters or the use of a dialysis catheter to remove and return blood. The blood travels through the catheter to the apheresis machine which separates blood into its components: red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma. Platelets are collected into a bag and discarded at the end of procedure. White cells, red cells, and plasma are returned to the patient.
Platelet depletion is used to treat patients with essential thrombocytosis. Essential thrombocytosis, or essential thrombocythemia, is a disease characterized by the body’s overproduction of platelets.
What to Expect
The procedure typically takes 3 to 4 hours. Platelet depletion is a safe procedure with a few possible side effects. If intravenous catheters are placed, the arms will be propped on pillows and you will be asked to intermittently pump a fist to help promote blood flow. One may experience bruising or discomfort at the insertion sites. If a larger catheter is used, one will have free use of their arms during the procedure. You may have mild numbness or tingling, nausea, or light-headedness. An apheresis staff member specialized with the procedure will be with you throughout the treatment and should be notified of any side effects to help alleviate the symptoms.