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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

Patient Education
Hematology Apheresis Unit (HAU)
What Happens in HAU

What is the Hematology Apheresis Unit?

Apheresis means separating blood into components as it is being drawn from the patient/donor. It is the most efficient collection method for obtaining or removing a specific component - stem cells, platelets, white cells, leukemia cells, plasma or red cells.

In an apheresis procedure, a special machine called a cell separator is used during the blood collection. Blood is drawn and channeled through the machine, where it is separated into its different parts by centrifugation (spinning). Once separated, the desired component is collected and the remaining blood components are returned to the donor/patient.

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What happens in the Hematology Apheresis Unit?

You will visit the HAU if:

  • You are a patient or donor having a blood stem cell collection. The HAU assesses patients and donors prior to blood stem cell collections – see below for details of the assessment.
  • You are diagnosed with graft-versus-host disease after a blood and marrow transplant that requires photopheresis or light therapy. Some patients with cGVHD (chronic graft-versus-host disease) may benefit from photopheresis treatment. In this procedure, the patient’s T-cells are collected using the apheresis machine. The T-cells are then treated with a photoactive chemical called methoxsalen, then exposed to ultraviolet light and then returned to the patient. The treated T-cells are believed to stimulate the host immune system and help the body control the cells that contribute to the GVHD.
  • You need intravenous chemotherapy administered
  • You need a blood transfusion
  • You have excess iron and require a phlebotomy (removal of blood)

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Blood/Marrow Donors or Autologous Transplant Patients

One of the functions of the Hematology Apheresis Unit (HAU) is to assess blood and marrow donors having peripheral blood stem cell collections prior to the collections. This assessment will include:

    • A brief review of your medical history by a HAU physician
    • A discussion about the collection procedure
    • A vein check, which is important to determine whether the arm veins will be adequate to allow for stem cell collections on a cell separator machine

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