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Transfusion. 2007 Oct;47(10):1837-42.

Complications of apheresis in children.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, University Hospital Center Sainte-Justine, University of Montreal, 3175 chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Although the frequency of complications in adults undergoing therapeutic apheresis is low, there are little data in children.


A retrospective study of 186 children who had undergone a total of 1632 apheresis procedures between 1994 and 2002 was conducted. Adverse reactions were prospectively documented. The procedures were plasma exchange (67%), hematopoietic progenitor cell collection (18%), red blood cell exchange (6.9%), leukodepletion (0.7%), and plasma exchange with immunoadsorption (6.7%).


Adverse reactions, most minor, were reported in 55 percent of procedures in 82 percent of patients. The most frequent complications, per procedure and per patient during an entire course of therapy, were hypotension (14 and 48.4%), hypotension requiring fluid bolus (4.8 and 26.9%), symptomatic hypocalcemia (9.7 and 28.5%), allergic reactions (4.4 and 5.9%), catheter-related thrombosis (1.7 and 12.4%), catheter-related infection (2.1 and 16.1%), and severe anemia (hemoglobin [Hb] level, <7 g/dL; 2.5 and 17.2%). There were two deaths (1% of patients). Risk factors for complications by multivariate analysis were lower body weight, lower preapheresis Hb level, apheresis in a critical care unit, and number of procedures per patient. The 55 percent incidence of complications per procedure in our pediatric cohort is much higher than the 4.3 to 28 percent incidence reported in adults. The excess of adverse reactions in children are mostly related to citrate toxicity, higher relative vascular volume shifts, and the need for vascular access.


Pediatric apheresis presents unique challenges and is associated with higher complication rate compared to adults. It is recommended that this procedure be performed in specialized centers.

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