Apheresis Program

If you need apheresis, look to UC San Diego Health for the highest level of care. We have one of the largest therapeutic apheresis programs in the United States.

Amber Sanchez, MD, leads our team of physicians who work closely with advanced care practitioners, nurses, technicians, social workers and support staff to manage every aspect of your treatment experience.

Apheresis is a medical procedure that involves passing a person's blood through a device that separates a component of the blood from its other parts and returns the remainder into circulation.

Types of Treatment We Offer

Also known as therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE), plasmapheresis is a nonsurgical therapy that removes and replaces a patient's blood plasma.

Also known as extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP), photopheresis is a nonsurgical therapy that removes, treats and returns a patient's white blood cells.

LDL Apheresis
LDL apheresis is a nonsurgical therapy that removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from a patient's blood. During LDL apheresis, the plasma portion of the blood, which contains cholesterol, is separated and run through a machine that removes the LDL.

Red Cell Exchange Apheresis
Red blood cell exchange apheresis — also known as therapeutic erythrocytapheresis — is a nonsurgical therapy that removes and replaces a patient's red blood cells.

White Cell Reduction Apheresis
White blood cell reduction apheresis, a form of therapeutic leukapheresis, is a nonsurgical therapy that reduces the number of white blood cells in a patient's circulating blood supply.

Platelet Reduction Apheresis
Platelet reduction apheresis — also known as therapeutic thrombocytapheresis or plateletpheresis — is a nonsurgical therapy that reduces the number of platelets in a patient's blood.

Hematopoietic Stem Cell Harvest Apheresis
Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) harvest apheresis is a special form of leukapheresis used to collect cells from the peripheral blood that can be used in bone marrow transplants.

Getting Started with Apheresis

Make your Appointment

If you are a new patient or don't have a MyUCSDChart account, call 858-249-3030.

If you've been referred for an apheresis consultation, we'll contact you with an appointment time and instructions on how to get to the clinic. Please bring your picture ID and all insurance cards.

If you're an existing patient, log into your MyUCSDChart account to request an appointment and prescription renewals, review your health history and send a secure message to the apheresis team.

Feel free to make a list of questions or concerns to discuss with the apheresis doctor. We encourage you to bring someone with you for support, as a lot of medical information will be discussed.

What to Expect


  • At your consultation, the doctor will do a physical exam, including checking arm veins to determine if they're adequate for needle insertion or if a catheter will be necessary.
  • The doctor will discuss and explain the procedure, how the equipment works and any possible complications.
  • We encourage you to ask questions and clarify any concerns you have.
  • If you decide to do the procedure, you'll sign consent forms and get an appointment date for apheresis.
  • If a dual-lumen catheter or vortex is needed, it will be scheduled before the apheresis appointment.

During the Apheresis Procedure

  • You will be connected to an apheresis machine with transparent tubing.
  • The average time on the machine is between one and four hours.
  • A nurse will be with you at all times.
  • When you come in for your procedure, wear loose and comfortable clothing so that you can roll up your sleeves or unbutton your shirt for easy access to the arm veins or the catheter.
  • Before the procedure begins, your nurse will check your weight, blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiration rate.
  • You will be seated in a reclining chair with blankets and pillows. You may bring your own if you prefer. 
  • You may eat, drink, read, sleep or watch TV during the procedure, but some activities will be difficult if needles are being used in one or both arms. If you have a dual-lumen catheter or a vortex, you can move your arms freely. 
  • You may have a visitor during the procedure. But at certain times — typically at the start or the end — the nurse may ask the visitor to leave the room for a few minutes.

How You Will Feel

  • Therapeutic apheresis procedures usually do not cause any discomfort.
  • Before needle insertion, you'll have the option to get a local anesthetic, which may sting for less than a minute. 
  • If you have some complications like numbness or a tingling sensation — which can be a reaction to the citrate (anticoagulant) — tell your nurse immediately, who will make adjustments to correct the symptoms.
  • If you have any unusual symptoms or discomfort, please notify your nurse immediately.

After the Procedure

  • After the procedure, all needles will be removed, sites clotted and pressure dressings applied.
  • If you use a dual-lumen catheter or vortex, catheter care will be done. 
  • Your nurse will give you detailed discharge instructions.
  • You will be released from the unit in normal stable condition.
  • If you have any symptoms or concerns after leaving, call the unit at 619-543-5977. After hours, call the operator at 619-543-6222 and ask for the nephrologist on call.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are highly regulated health-related research studies that move advances in the treatment of diseases and conditions forward into clinical practice. They offer people the chance to receive newly developed therapies and provide crucial information to medical scientists.

We are conducting clinical trials on a broad spectrum of topics related to therapeutic apheresis. 

Search Clinical Trials

Related Services

Pediatric Apheresis Physician at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego

Apheresis Locations