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J Clin Apher. 2000;15(4):242-8.

Indications for therapeutic plasma exchange at a university hospital and a regional blood center.

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Transfusion Medicine Program, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


The AABB guidelines for therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) are divided into four categories: I. TPE is "standard and acceptable therapy," II. "generally accepted," III. "insufficient evidence to evaluate efficacy," and IV. "data suggest no therapeutic efficacy." Since little is known about the implementation of these guidelines, and since the indications for TPE may vary, depending upon an institution's patient mix, this study reviewed the indications and their categories for two co-located institutions. A retrospective review of the indications for all patients undergoing TPE from January 1, 1994 to December 31,1997 at Emory University Hospital (EUH), a tertiary-care teaching hospital, and the American Red Cross (ARC), a regional blood center, using AABB criteria (ASFA criteria used when not rated [NR] by AABB) was conducted. Categories I/II represented 75% and 88% of cases (EUH and ARC, respectively), while Categories III/IV/NR (NR as used below is "not rated" by both AABB and ASFA criteria; n is number of patients) were 25% and 12% of indications, respectively (P =0.002). Cases at EUH (n=101) were I, 62%; II, 13%; III, 3%; IV, 13%; and NR, 9%. Cases at ARC (n=359) were I, 77%; II, 11%; III, 9%; IV, 0%; and NR, 3% (P<0.001). No Category IV patients underwent TPE at ARC (13% at EUH). Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) was the most common indication for TPE at both centers. The majority of the procedures were "appropriate" (Categories III/); several disorders ( approximately 10%) for which TPE was utilized at both centers were NR by both AABB and ASFA guidelines. Indications for TPE may differ, depending on the type of requesting institution. Physicians requesting TPE for patients with disorders in Categories III/IV/NR should be more strongly encouraged to enter their patients into controlled trials to best evaluate the efficacy of TPE in inadequately-studied clinical situations. This might best be accomplished at university hospitals, where requests for Category III/IV/NR may be higher. A need exists for periodic updating of the AABB guidelines to include those diseases for which new information is available with regard to the potential therapeutic role of TPE.

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