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Your Healthy Family: Photopheresis suite donated to UCHealth Memorial can treat a variety of conditions

Posted at 3:33 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 18:14:45-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — I recently introduced you to Donna Bryant, who lives in Falcon and is living an extraordinarily improved life, because of a new treatment suite at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North.

Donna has an autoimmune neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis and without regular treatment, her life comes to a halt, as she shared with us. Donna was getting treated in metro Denver until a suite opened in southern Colorado at Memorial. (SEE STORY BELOW)

Your Healthy Family - Springs woman improving in fight with debilitating disease

Donna says, “Normally to keep the myasthenia gravis maintained it’s (treatment) once a week, so I've been very fortunate to come every other day, here so close to home, and it has made a significant difference in many ways.” (SEE STORY BELOW)

Your Healthy Family - Myasthenia gravis treatment close to home thanks to donor

Donna's apheresis plasma exchange happens in the new Photopheresis Suite located in the infusion center at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North. The new suite was built thanks to an anonymous donor.

If you think of dialysis as the process of cleaning someone’s blood who has kidney disease, apheresis is a more targeted method of replacing a specific component of someone’s blood, depending on their condition.

Apheresis is defined as a treatment that removes a person's blood and separates it into plasma and red and white cells, and the reintroduction of the cells, used especially to remove antibodies in treating autoimmune diseases.

Photopheresis is defined as a form of apheresis that combines photodynamic therapy and a photoactive drug that produces a therapueutic immune response.

Dr. Andrea Manhart, medical director of Outpatient Infusion and Apheresis for UCHealth’s southern region, explains, “In our apheresis suite, we are able to offer opportunities for patients with sickle cell anemia, graft vs host disease, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

Registered nurse Peter Douglas has been doing apheresis and photopheresis treatments for more than 15 years and has seen how effective they are for many patients. “I’ve done plasma exchange for organ transplant rejection, because you're essentially removing antibodies in the plasma, and I have done them during heart transplants. I've actually seen plasma exchange and plasmapheresis both used for transplant rejection.”

Sickle cell disease is another condition where plasma exchange can be effective. Peter explains: “The benefit of using it (apheresis) for sickle cell anemia is that some of the sickle cell cases respond well to it. You decrease the amount of iron that the patient ends up getting. With the red blood cell exchange you’re removing those red cells and giving them healthy donor red cells back.”

Dr. Manhart says that now that apheresis is available in Colorado Springs, there is help closer to home for people dealing with any number of medical conditions. “These patients were traveling to Denver on a weekly basis, so it's a significant improvement to their quality of life.”

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