Useful Tips for Patients Who Need Leukapheresis

When a person has leukemia, they can experience a drastic increase in the number of white blood cells in their body, which can cause circulation problems. Chemotherapy is often used to reduce the number of white blood cells, but it can take several days for chemotherapy to work. Thus, in some situations, a leukemia patient may need to undergo leukapheresis, a procedure that removes white blood cells. If you need leukapheresis, it is in your best interest to be prepared and know what to expect from the procedure. Use the following tips if you need to undergo leukapheresis.

Stay Hydrated

On the day you have the leukapheresis done, it is very important to be well hydrated. Being hydrated will make it much easier to place the IVs in your arms. It is highly recommended that you increase your fluid intake for several days prior to the procedure. Drinking water is best, but juice and sports drinks are also acceptable. Drink as little caffeine as possible for several days, and avoid caffeine completely on the day of your procedure.

Eat Properly

The leukapheresis process can disrupt your calcium levels and may cause side effects like feeling cold or experiencing a tingling sensation in your body. You can help limit these side effects by consuming healthy meals that are very high in calcium for a couple of days before the procedure and right before your appointment. Consume food and beverages like cottage cheese, spinach, broccoli, yogurt, milk, and calcium-fortified orange juice. 

Dress Accordingly

The leukapheresis procedure will take several hours, so it is important to dress comfortably. It is highly recommended to wear loose, stretchy clothing, and make sure that the sleeves on your shirt are short or can easily be rolled up when the IVs are placed. During the procedure you will not be able to get up or move around, so choose clothing that is not restrictive. Do not worry about being cold during your appointment if you wear short sleeves—most facilities offer warm blankets to patients who are undergoing leukapheresis.

Make Transportation Arrangements

While leukapheresis works quickly to remove excess white blood cells, the entire process can leave a person feeling very tired and fatigued. Thus, it is highly recommended that you have a family member or friend drive you home after your procedure. When you arrive home, the best thing you can do is sleep and rest until you regain your energy.