Therapeutic Apheresis Policy

This has been revised to recommend the use of a continuously recording portable vital signs device such as Umana’s UT1M (GPI, Italia) which includes PAO2 and heart rhythm measurements.


All therapeutic apheresis procedures are potentially life-threatening and must only occur by an order from a transfusion medicine physician with experience/competence in such procedures.


  • Referring Physician is the clinical physician requesting a therapeutic apheresis procedure.
  • Transfusion Medicine Physician is a physician in the Transfusion Medicine Section with medical privileges for therapeutic apheresis procedures.  This includes the Head, Transfusion Medicine, consultants in Transfusion Medicine, and designated specialist physicians in Transfusion Medicine.  The final decision to accept/reject the patient is made by the transfusion medicine physician.
  • Covering Physician is the clinical physician designated by the referring physician to be physically present and covering the patient in case of any adverse reactions during a therapeutic apheresis procedure.
  • Apheresis Nurses are nurses in Transfusion Medicine who are designated by this section for performing therapeutic apheresis procedures.
  • Medical Privileges are determined by Transfusion Medicine in conjunction with the medical privileging by the Medical Director.


  1. The referral physician will discuss the request for a therapeutic apheresis with the designated transfusion medicine physician.  The referral physician must certify that the patient can tolerate the procedure based on his medical condition.
  2. The transfusion medicine physician will review the patient’s clinical and laboratory data, with special note of the history of allergies, medications, previous transfusion reactions, and current vital signs.
  3. Vascular access will be initially assessed by the apheresis nurse.  Any questionable situations will be reviewed by the transfusion medicine physician.
  4. The following laboratory values (less than 24 hours old) must be available before the procedure may begin:
    1. CBC including platelet count
    2. PT and APTT
    3. Fibrinogen
    4. Serum calcium
    5. Serum protein and albumin
    6. LDH for TTP cases
  5. A valid type and screen must have been done within the previous three days of the procedure.
  6. Upon review of # 2 through 5, the transfusion medicine physician will determine if the procedure is indicated and will communicate this to the referral physician, who will sign written order in the patient chart.  Appropriate replacement fluids will also be mutually agreed upon in advance of the procedure and ordered by the transfusion medicine physician.  The order specification must include:
    1. Name of procedure and specification (e.g. therapeutic plasma exchange, isovolemic)
    2. Replacement fluid type and volume (e.g. 3 liters 5% albumin, 2 liters, FFP, cryoprecipitate, normal saline)
    3. Blood component orders if indicated (e.g. RBC exchange) and timing (before, during, and/or after the procedure)
    4. Calcium replacement (e.g. 2 grams calcium gluconate IV in 100 ml normal saline to run during the procedure)
    5. Any special laboratory testing post-procedure
  7. The apheresis nurse will follow the orders of the necessary prescribed replacement fluids (FFP, albumin, PPF) in the quantities necessary for the exchange.
  8. The referring physician will obtain the signed, informed consent from the patient.
  9. If vascular access is unsatisfactory, the referring physician will obtain the proper access (central line, AV shunt, etc.).
  10. The referring physician will arrange for a physician member of his team to be present at the actual therapeutic procedure.  This physician designate will be responsible to treat any complications arising from the procedure.
  11. Vital signs and weight will be obtained before starting the procedure.
  12. If the procedure is outside an intensive care unit and the patient is critically ill, consider the use of a portable attached monitoring patch (such as the Umana UT1M device).  The device will give alarm if any measurement is outside the defined ranges.
    1. If any blood components are administered, keep the patch attached to detect TRALI/TACO and other adverse transfusion reactions.
  13. When approved by the Blood Bank Director or designate with proper venous access and informed consent, the apheresis may start the procedure in the presence of the patient’s covering physician.  The procedure will be performed in a designated hospital area.
  14. The procedure must be documented on the appropriate therapeutic apheresis order and procedure worksheets.


  1. Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services Current Edition, AABB, Bethesda, MD, USA
  2. CAP Standard TRM.42245 regarding therapeutic apheresis procedures

Revised 3/1/21

My Experience: Blood Bank Considerations for Setting Up ABO-Incompatible Renal Transplantation

Setting up ABO-incompatible renal transplants is a major undertaking and requires close coordination between Transfusion Medicine and the clinical team.  This post addresses my experience in setting up this program in 2019 at HMC in Qatar.

Like any process involving titration, it is best to automate it to minimize inter-technologist variability.  Unfortunately, doing both IgG and IgM titers takes up to 1 hour per machine and totally monopolizes the machine during that interval.  I did not have sufficient staff to even consider doing the titrations manually.  Performing automated titers disrupted my workflow so I encouraged the clinicians to send the specimens for off-peak processing.


  1. Obtain the full clinical protocol and especially note the thresholds for transplantation.
  2. Determine the methodologies used at the reference site.  Can you do this at your local site or do you have to use an alternative method?
  3. Do you have equipment to automatically titer?  Doing both IgG and IgM may monopolize an immunohematology analyzer for one hour?  How will this affect your other testing?
  4. Regardless if it is the same method, you must still correlate your titers with the protocol site, both IgG and IgM.
  5. If you are using multiple analyzers for titration, you must do a comparison study between them.  How much does the titer vary?


  1. Determine column inventory and order the A, B, and AB columns.  You must order enough to finish the course of treatment.  It may take weeks to get additional columns, depending on your supply chain.  Each column costs thousands of euros.
  2. Where are you going to store the columns?  Ours needed 2-8C storage.  Can you keep them away from quarantined products and patient specimens?
  3. Are your columns single-use? 
  4. If multi-use, who is going to restore them after use?  How do you ensure that it is dedicated for the right patient?

Apheresis Equipment:

  1. How are you going to attach the column to the apheresis equipment?
  2. Will you use your therapeutic apheresis equipment like Terumo Optia directly or will you use a second machine (e.g. Medicap)?
  3. Do you have all the clamps, tubing, and holder for the column?


  1. Do you have sufficient apheresis nurses to perform the procedures?  You may be running the apheresis for up to 8 hours.  How does this impact your other procedures or donor center operations?  Our pool of apheresis nurses was very limited.  They also covered routine blood donation.  How will doing this process impact your regular donation and other apheresis operations—donor and therapeutic?
  2. Do you have sufficient supplies of ACD-A anticoagulant and calcium gluconate?

Specimen Collection:

  1. Perform titrations expeditiously:  Can you finish titration testing before the next scheduled procedure?  In our institution, we collected specimens at 0400 and had them directly brought to the blood bank for testing.  Results were ready at 0600 so the clinicians could decide early if another procedure was needed.

Table of Permissible ABO Types:

  1. Define acceptable blood products by blood type—take into consideration pathogen inactivation and platelet additive solution if used.  At our institution, all RBCs were in additive solution and all platelets were pathogen-inactivated in platelet additive solution PAS so residual ABO antibodies were minimal in the final components.  Since the platelets contain only minimal plasma, we did not concern ourselves with matching their ABO type with the donor kidney.  Otherwise, platelet types with plasma compatible to the donor kidney must be selected.


  1. Prepare a truth table for acceptable ABO component types based on #16 above.
  2. Include the titer cutoff for IgG and IgM antibodies in the organ transplant module.

Selection of blood component for ABO-incompatible renal transplantation is discussed in a separate post that will follow.


Leukodepletion Apheresis Form

This form is the result of a collaborative effort between my therapeutic apheresis team and me. I want to thank Dr. Saloua Al Hmissi, Consultant, Transfusion Medicine, and Ms. Mini Paul, Head Apheresis Nurse for all their efforts.

This form can be readily converted into a computer data entry form–depending on your software’s capabilities.

Platelet Depletion Apheresis Form

This is the apheresis form used for reductive thrombapheresis developed by my apheresis team and me. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Saloua Al Hmissi, Consultant Transfusion Medicine, and Ms. Mini Paul, Head Apheresis Nurse, all their hard work.

The attached form can be developed into a computer entry form if one has a suitable hospital information system. It is organized so that the apheresis nurse can quickly enter the data on one screen. Never forget that our goal is treat the patient–not spend all of our time on data entry!!


Sample Stem Cell Collection Apheresis Form

This is a sample of the stem cell therapeutic apheresis form that my apheresis team and I developed. It can be readily made into an electronic form. I want to thank Dr. Saloua Al Hmissi, Apheresis Consultant, and Ms. Mini Paul, Head Apheresis Nurse, for their efforts in making this form a success.

Sample RBC Exchange Form

This form was developed by my senior apheresis staff at HMC Doha in conjunction with me. It organizes the data to minimize the time needed to put the data in place so that the apheresis nurse can concentrate on the patient. It can serve as a good template from which to build a computer form.

I want to thank Ms. Mini Paul, Head Apheresis Nurse, and Dr. Saloua Al Hmissi, Consultant Transfusion Medicine for all their efforts.

Therapeutic Apheresis Volume Calculations

You can get the values off the therapeutic apheresis machine, but in the middle of the night when you have to write orders, it is convenient to estimate the volumes (whole blood, plasma, RBCs).  These are the values from my lectures to hematology fellows while I was at HMC Doha:

Whole Blood:

Weight in kg X 70 ml/kg = whole (whole) blood volume adult

Weight in kg X 85 ml/kg =whole blood volume for child (prepubertal)

Weight in kg X 100 ml/kg = whole blood volume for neonates/premature

Example:  70 kg adult has 4900 ml blood volume (I round up to 5 liters)

Plasmacrit + hematocrit = 1.00 in fractions (100%), ignore buffy coat volume

Plasmacrit = 1- hematocrit

Plasma volume:

Plasma volume = whole blood volume x plasmacrit = whole blood volume X (1-hematocrit)

RBC volume:

RBC volume = whole blood volume x hematocrit

Estimates for blood components:

The volumes will depend on the original amount collected (e.g. 450 vs 500 ml),  original preservative solution used (e.g. CPD), use of automated component production such as Terumo Atreus or Reveos, use of RBC additive solution (e.g. SAGM), leukodepletion, platelet additive solution, pathogen inactivation.

At HMC Doha, the average values were:

300 ml for leukodepleted RBCs in SAGM prepared by Reveos

300 ml for platelet pools in Mirasol and platelet additive solution (residual WBC < 1E6)

300 ml for plateletpheresis concentrate (2.4E11) in Mirasol and platelet additive solution

250 ml for leukodepleted, pathogen inactivated plasma

RBC Exchange Form

This was the RBC Exchange Form developed by my Head Apheresis Nurse Ms. Mini Paul and Dr. Saloua Al Hmissi at my previous position. It is easy to find all the important information and enter the parameters during the actual procedure: it does NOT require the apheresis nurse to flip back and forth and allows her/him to concentrate on the patient.


Opinion: Continue Manual Data Collection During Therapeutic Apheresis Procedures

While I was  Division Head, Laboratory Information Systems LIS at my previous position, I was asked to use the hospital information system HIS to collect information during the procedure analogous to what was done for dialysis.

I thought of the logistics:  one apheresis nurse, one Spectra Optia machine, and one metal cage containing a theft-proof computer on a stand.  There was no room for the patient’s bed with all this equipment—the nurse could not move around comfortably.

Second, what I was presented was a hodge-podge of screens on the HIS that the apheresis had to maneuver back and forth between for each measurement—none of the data entry was on one screen!  Honestly, there wasn’t enough time to enter all the data between the screens AND look at the patient.

I remind everyone that therapeutic apheresis is not a benign procedure.  The patient may be critically ill.  The apheresis nurse must concentrate on the patient.  The HIS team was more interested in the data collection, even at the expense of the patient.

LIS had not been engaged in building the pathway and the HIS wanted us to follow the dialysis template.  They did not know that there are many types of therapeutic procedures, often with different data collection.  There is no one-size-fits-all screen!

I refused.  The nurse must concentrate on the patient, not the LCD screen.  To use the HIS would have been harmful to patient care in this situation.  We retained the manual, cellulose interface.  We scanned the manual data form and uploaded it into HIS.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. HIS must engage LIS, and in particular Transfusion Medicine, when building anything for the blood bank.  This is in accordance with international  accreditation standards.
  2. We must never lose sight that we are treating the patient, not the computer screen.  Especially in therapeutic apheresis, we must use the apheresis specialist nurse to monitor the clinical status of the patient, first and foremost!
  3. If the proposed computer process is worse than the manual process, keep the latter.


Basic Hematology Fellowship Rotation in Transfusion Medicine


  1. Donor Center
    1. Donor eligibility criteria
    2. Whole blood collection
    3. Donor apheresis (platelets, plasma, dual-RBC)
    4. Donor reactions
  2. Therapeutic Apheresis
    1. Plasma exchange
    2. Leukocyte reduction—stem cell collection
    3. Reductive thrombapheresis
    4. RBC exchange
    5. Column-absorption procedures including phototherapy
  3. Component Preparation
    1. Preparation and release issues
  4. Transfusion Service:
    1. Blood component therapy
    2. RBC blood groups
    3. Compatibility Testing
    4. Antibody Identification and clinical significance
    5. Transfusion reactions
    6. Direct antiglobulin test clinical significance
    7. Drug-related hemolysis


TMS Donor and Transfusion Services

Conducted by:  Head, TMS, and senior TMS technical staff


Discussion of topics with TMS Head and written final examination

Source Materials:

  1. Technical Manual, AABB
  2. Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services, AABB
  3. Apheresis, Principles and Practice, AABB

This is a full-time, one-month rotation—attendance in mandatory.  Vacations should NOT be taken during this rotation.

Originally Prepared for NGHA Riyadh 31/3/09

Reviewed 26/8/20