Exchange transfusion is a potentially life-saving procedure that is done to counteract the effects of serious jaundice or changes in the blood due to diseases such as sickle cell anemia.
The procedure involves slowly removing the patient’s blood and replacing it with fresh donor blood or plasma.
An exchange transfusion requires that the patient’s blood be removed and replaced. In most cases, this involves placing one or more thin tubes, called catheters, into a blood vessel. The exchange transfusion is done in cycles, each one usually lasts a few minutes.
The patient’s blood is slowly withdrawn (usually about 5 to 20 mL at a time, depending on the patient’s size and the severity of illness). An equal amount of fresh, prewarmed blood or plasma flows into the patient’s body. This cycle is repeated until the correct volume of blood has been replaced.
After the exchange transfusion, catheters may be left in place in case the procedure needs to be repeated.
In diseases such as sickle cell anemia, blood is removed and replaced with donor blood.
In conditions such as
Why the Procedure Is Performed
An exchange transfusion may be needed to treat the following conditions:
Dangerously high red blood cell count in a newborn (neonatal polycythemia)
Rh-induced hemolytic disease of the newborn
Severe disturbances in body chemistry
Severe newborn jaundice that does not respond to
phototherapy with bili lights
Severe sickle cell crisis
Toxic effects of certain drugs
General risks are the same as with any transfusion. Other possible complications include:
Changes in blood chemistry (high or low potassium, low calcium, low glucose, change in acid-base balance in the blood)
Heart and lung problems
Infection (very low risk due to careful screening of blood)
Shock if not enough blood is replaced
After the Procedure
The infant may need to be monitored for several days in the hospital after the transfusion. The length of stay depends on what condition the exchange transfusion was performed to treat.
Related:Newborn jaundice – discharge