Leukapheresis is a medical treatment used to reduce the number of white blood cells in the human body. The white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are the cells which make up your immune system. They protect your body from foreign invaders, fighting infections from bacteria and infectious diseases. All white blood cells are made in the bone marrow, and they are found circulating throughout both the bloodstream and the lymphatic system, in the lymph fluid that is produced by the lymph glands throughout the body. There are several different types of white blood cells.
While their presence in the body is normal and an absolute necessity, their number can be indicative a disease or infection somewhere in the body. When you have a routine blood sample drawn at the doctor, one of the things they are checking is the WBC, which is short for "white blood cell" count. In a microliter of blood, the healthy range physicians are looking for will be a number between 3,500 and 10,500. This makes up only about one percent of the total blood volume, but this one percent is extremely important as it is an indicator of your immune system function.
When the WBC count goes below the lower parameter, it is called leukopenia. This is a sign of a weakened immune system. It is common when your body is fighting a virus, but it is also common in those who have AIDS and HIV.
When the WBC count goes above the upper parameter, it is called leukocytosis. This happens occasionally when your body is fighting an infection; it is a normal response from your immune system. It can also confirm for doctors something is indeed going on, even if they don't know what exactly yet. The "something" may be abnormal cells that are neoplastic. These are the cells that form a neoplasm, or a tumor, which is an abnormal mass of cells. It may also be indicative of an immune disorder.
How Are White Blood Cells Removed?
Leukapheresis, which doctors use to reduce the number of white blood cells, is a process that is very important in some conditions. Too many white blood cells can cause circulation problems in the body. It is a simple, painless procedure. A tube is put into the vein in each arm. A machine removes the blood and passes it through a filter that removes the extra white blood cells. The rest of the cells and the plasma are then recirculated into the other vein. The procedure takes about three hours.