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Apheresis: What to Expect

Apheresis team membersPreparation

Once you have been referred for a consultation for apheresis, we will contact you with an appointment time and instructions on how to get here. Please bring your picture ID, and all insurance coverage cards you have. If you would like, make a list of questions or concerns you may have 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.


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

During the Procedure

  • When you come in for your procedure, you should wear loose and comfortable clothing and be able to 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; take your 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 while you are having the procedure, but some of these activities will be difficult if needles are being used in one or both arms. 
  • You may have a visitor during the procedure – but at certain times during the procedure the nurse may ask the visitor to leave the room for a few minutes – typically this happens at the start or conclusion of the procedure. 
  • Your nurse will be with you at all times.
  • Patients with a dual lumen catheter or a vortex will have free movement of their arms.   
  • You will be connected to an apheresis machine with transparent tubing.
  • The average time on the machine is between one and four hours.

How You Will Feel

  • Therapeutic apheresis procedures usually do not cause any discomfort.
  • Before needle insertion, you are given the option to get local anesthetic, which may sting for less than a minute. 
  • Should 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.
  • Should 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 are using 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.

Appointments & Referrals


La Jolla

All UC San Diego Health hospitals provide inpatient apheresis.

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