New hope to blood disorder patients

(Ashok Verma)

The apheresis service at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) is offering new hope to patients with blood disorders, with the state-of-the-art treatment providing an alternative method with higher chances of recovery and survival.

Apheresis is a special process where whole blood is removed from a patient, separated into its components – including plasma and red blood cells - and re-transfused into the patient after removing and replacing the blood component that contributes to a disease state.

“Apheresis is very effective, has minimal side effects, and so far no morbidity or mortality for the 150 or so sessions we’ve conducted on paediatric patients so far. Sometimes three to five sessions can even totally reverse a disease, and patients won’t need to undertake therapeutic apheresis for life like dialysis,” said Dr Azzam Al Zoebie, Chief of Pediatric Oncology and Haematology Division at SKMC.

“The type of diseases that benefit from such a treatment is very wide, including and not limited to a variety of blood, renal and neurological disorders where the disease process results from antibodies attacking and destroying normal organ cells.

“It can also help in treating a rejection of a transplanted organ after a solid organ transplant.

According to him, the treatment is helpful in children with certain types of leukemia who have extremely high white blood cell counts at the time of presentation, as well as patients with sickle cell disease with certain complications.

“Removal of the excess leukocytes – or leukemic cells – can help to prevent many serious and life threatening complications in the early stages of treatment. Similarly, lowering the concentration of the sickle haemoglobin and replenishing it with normal blood early on can prevent – or even cure – stroke in affected patients,” he added.

The service at SKMC has completed over 500 treatment sessions for adult and paediatric patients across a wide spectrum of diseases.

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