Therapeutic Plasma Exchange VS. Plasma Donation

May 3, 2023


by: Dr. Paul Savage

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Plasma Donation VS. Therapeutic Plasma Exchange

In August 2022, a landmark study about the effects of Therapeutic Plasma Exchange (TPE) on the biomarkers of aging grabbed the attention of every longevity researcher and clinician, as well as that of millions of aging adults. In this study, the authors of the paper, published in GeroScience, observed that repeated rounds of TPE demonstrated an astonishing reversal of the biomarkers of aging. Biomarkers that measure cancer, inflammation, oxidation, Alzheimer’s disease, and the immune system, were reverted to a significantly younger, more healthy profile.

This raises the question, can you get the same results if you donate plasma instead of a plasma exchange procedure?

This article will discuss the differences between plasma donation and TPE. We will review the following topics:

  • The process and benefits of plasma donation
  • The process and benefits of TPE
  • Key differences between plasma donation and TPE

Process and Benefits of Therapeutic Plasma Exchange

Therapeutic Plasma Exchange, or TPE, is like a plasma donation, but when the plasma is removed, it is replaced with a saline solution that has albumin. The plasma substitution removes harmful components from the blood, such as antibodies and toxins, along with inflammatory and oxidative mediators.

During a TPE appointment, blood is drawn from one arm and returned to the body in the other arm. The blood is separated into plasma and red blood cells, and the plasma is exchanged with a solution made up of a purified solution of salt and protein before being mixed with the blood cells and returned to the patient’s body.

The process is accomplished by using an FDA-approved device called an apheresis machine. TPE is safe and typically performed in a hospital or a clinic with specialized medical equipment and trained health professionals performing this procedure.

TPE has been around for over 50 years and is used to treat many medical conditions. To just name a few:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Long-Covid 19
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • MS – Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Certain blood disorders

Process and Benefits of Plasma Donation

Plasma Donation is a procedure where a person donates their plasma, which is a component of their blood. Plasma is a gold-colored liquid that makes up about 55% of the total volume of blood. Plasma contains proteins, including antibodies, essential for the immune system to fight infections.

During a plasma donation appointment, blood is drawn from one arm and sent through a machine that separates the plasma from the cells. Then the donor’s red blood cells and platelets are returned to the body with saline.

Donating plasma is simple and convenient. There are hundreds of plasma donation centers across the United States, and the entire process usually takes less than an hour.

Plasma donation is safe, and many people donate plasma regularly to help others and potentially save lives. Collected plasma is used to create life-saving therapies for people with various medical conditions, including:

  • Immune deficiencies
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Certain respiratory illnesses

Key Differences between Plasma Donation and TPE

There are many significant differences between Plasma Donation and Therapeutic Plasma Exchange, including appointment times, amount of plasma being processed, and long-term benefits.

Appointment Times:

  • A plasma donation appointment usually takes less than an hour
  • TPE appointments can take 2-3 hours

Plasma Amounts:

  • Plasma donation is 250-500 milliliters
  • TPE is about 5Xs more, about 1,500-2,500 milliliters

Procedure Differences:

  • During plasma donation, the patient’s blood is not treated with a mild anticoagulant to prevent clotting. The removed plasma is donated for medical use, and the patient is given some saline in exchange for the removed plasma.
  • During TPE, the patient’s blood is treated with a mild anticoagulant to prevent clotting. Therefore, the plasma removed cannot be donated. The patient is given a mixture of saline fluid and albumin in exchange for removing the plasma.

Long-Term Benefits:

  • There aren’t any physical benefits to donating plasma. However, the patient can feel about the charitable donation to help others needing plasma or particular components of the blood.
  • With TPE, the long-term benefits are still being studied. However, each plasma exchange lowers your chance of developing a disease related to aging, including autoimmune diseases, neurologic diseases, infections, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more.

One major warning we want to share is that donating a lot of plasma is not safe or healthy, and donating plasma too frequently can damage your plasma quality. A 2010 study found that plasma from people who donated more often and in higher volumes had considerably lower total protein, albumin, and other blood markers. To avoid those complications, you can rest assured that you will always receive albumin during every TPE procedure.

Want to Learn More about Therapeutic Plasma Exchange?

Our patient guide to TPE is a great FREE resource to learn more about the procedure. It covers the history of plasma exchange, the benefits, possible side effects, and how to prepare for the procedure. We also included the TPE pricing package options we offer here at MDLifespan.

Click the button below to download your FREE guide now!