About Your Child’s Apheresis Visit

Patients referred to the Apheresis Program will have an initial evaluation by a physician-nurse team in the Apheresis Unit, on the second floor of the Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care on the Raymond G. Perelman Campus. The apheresis team will already know about your child and his condition from your child’s treating physician.

What to expect

On the day of your child’s first procedure, our team will greet you and your child when you arrive. You will be directed to a chair or bed where your child will receive his apheresis procedure. Next to each patient area is a high-tech apheresis machine that will be programmed to meet your child’s specific needs. If your child is very young, you’ll likely be directed to one of the beds on the unit where you can lie with your child to comfort him. Most older patients are directed to one of the reclining chairs.

All of the patient areas have room for you to sit with your child, a television, and a DVD player with a variety of movies to keep your child distracted and entertained. Child life staff are also available to help your child deal with any uncomfortable procedures, and to help him manage during the procedure.

Depending on which apheresis service your child needs, he will be connected to a machine that removes whole blood or specific parts of blood, such as red blood cells, white blood cells or plasma. In some cases, donated blood or plasma is transfused into your child. In others, your child’s blood is altered in some way – such as with light therapy in photopheresis – and then returned to your child.

We encourage patients to eat and drink before procedures to allow blood and plasma to flow more easily. This can shorten your child’s apheresis procedure, which can last anywhere from 1 to 5 hours. Most children are also allowed to snack during apheresis procedures, though you should check with your child’s healthcare team.

Tips for IV Insertion

We want your child’s apheresis procedure to go as smoothly as possible. They can help by keeping veins in tiptop shape. Sometimes, the nurses may have trouble placing a needle in the vein because it is too small. Exercise can help them grow!

  • Get a softball. At night when your child is watching TV, instruct them to squeeze the ball for the commercial breaks.
  • Use soup cans for arm exercises. Your team can show you how to do bicep curls. This will build up the muscles in your arms. As the muscles grow, they need more blood, which causes the veins to get bigger too.

After your child’s procedure

When your child’s procedure is complete, one of our doctors or nurses will double check everything, disconnect the machine and re-assess your child. Depending on the procedure, your child may receive special instructions, such as drinking extra water, resting for the remainder of the day, or avoiding prolonged sunlight. Your child’s apheresis team will discuss all discharge instructions with you before you leave.

How often your child needs apheresis will depend on his condition and the recommendations from our apheresis team and your child’s treating physician. Additionally, your child’s recommended treatment may evolve over time as he grows and his condition changes. If you have concerns, please talk to your child’s treating physician.

Next Steps