MONDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A blood-filtering procedure called plasma exchange helps ease severe flares of multiple sclerosis (MS), but does not help with more advanced, progressive forms of the disease, new guidelines say.
Plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis, is also effective in treating severe forms of Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and it may be considered to treat some other kinds of inflammatory neuropathies, according to the American Academy of Neurology guidelines.
Periodically, the academy reviews the available research on various procedures, ranks the evidence according to quality of the research and issues new recommendations that many neurologists use in their practice.
The updated guidelines, based on a review of research published between 1995 and 2009, are published in the Jan. 18 issue of Neurology. The previous guidelines were issued in 1996.
"With multiple sclerosis, plasmapheresis works, but only with the acute attacks, and it should also be used only when steroids do not work," said guidelines co-author Dr. Vinay Chaudhry, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "If the MS is chronic or progressive, not the relapsing or remitting type, plasmapheresis does not work."
In plasma exchange, developed in the 1970s, a patient's blood is removed from the body and filtered. The patient's blood and platelets are returned, but the plasma is replaced with donor plasma.
Though physicians aren't entirely sure why plasma exchange works, it's generally believed that filtering removes harmful proteins and antibodies in the plasma that attack the central nervous system.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks myelin, or the sheath that insulates nerve fibers of the central nervous system. The damage disrupt
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