Common side effects of plasmapheresis include dizziness, hypotension and perioral tingling, and patients have a minimal risk of infection from the intravenous manipulations, as affirmed by the journal Neurology. Certain procedures used to provide venous access also carry a small risk of thrombosis and pneumothorax.
Although studies have shown that plasmapheresisis improves the outcome of patients with severe cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, its effectiveness on milder cases is not confirmed as of 2015, according to Neurology.
The treatment works by removing plasma from blood cells in order to encourage blood cells to produce new plasma, ridding the body of harmful antibodies, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Guillain-Barre syndrome has no cure, but plasmapheresisis lessens its severity with the same effectiveness as immunoglobulin therapy, another common treatment option that delivers high levels of immunoglobulin intravenously to block damaging antibodies. Patients should undergo a combination of both treatment methods for increased effectiveness.
During treatment, patients often receive pain medication and medication to prevent blood clots, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Although recovery generally lasts six to 12 months, some patients may be in recovery for up to three years. During the recovery period, patients may also undergo exercise therapy, training with the use of adaptive devices and physical therapy to regain strength and mobility. Approximately 60 percent of adults with Guillain-Barre syndrome regain full motor strength one year after being diagnosed, while about 80 percent can walk independently in the same time period.