BANGOR — You may not have heard the term apheresis before, but this blood filtering treatment is transforming lives for those who need it. The therapeutic apheresis program at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is growing, with 300 percent more procedures compared to 2017, with upwards of 487 performed so far just this year.
Therapeutic apheresis is used to treat neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, and chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy; metabolic disorders such as certain types of encephalopathy and extremely high triglyceride levels; hematologic disorders such as sickle cell anemia, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and certain parasitic infections. This treatment may also be used for patients with leukemia with life-threatening elevated white blood cell counts.
“We see the difference apheresis treatment makes in the quality of life for our patients,” says Kael Mikesell, DO, medical director, Patient Blood Management. “We have patients that need a specific kind of apheresis treatment and our team supports them by researching and learning new treatment protocols in response to their needs. The dedication to enhancing our apheresis program shows in its growth, making us better equipped to serve patients throughout the northern two-thirds of our state.”
Amy Brasslett is a patient whose diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder called myasthenia gravis was life changing. She says, “I went from being a very active Mom and nurse to a patient with a chronic illness. I went from hiking and working full time, to struggling to walk, chew my food, and sometimes breathe. I started plasmapheresis as an inpatient, and continued with routine treatments as an outpatient, three times a week monthly for a year. My physical therapist noticed the improvement right away. I was finally able to make progress, and, over time, I have become almost symptom free.”
Tuesday, Sept. 21, is Apheresis Awareness Day, and the team at the Medical Center will highlight their areas of specialty by presenting two online educational sessions for staff interested in learning more about the treatment. During the Zoom session, the team will provide an overview of the state-of-the-art equipment, customized plans, and the process of safely filtering blood while monitoring for necessary transfusions.
To learn more about therapeutic apheresis, visit northernlighthealth.org/EMMCApheresis or call 207-973-8606 and the apheresis team will can answer questions and help individuals schedule a referral for treatment.