What is Rheopheresis?
Rheopheresis blood filtration (RHEO) is an innovative application of an established method of plasma therapy to treat Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Clinical research has been developing the technology for the past 10 years. The treatment works by removing excess amounts of certain macro-proteins and fatty components associated with various diseases.
How does RHEO work?
RHEO works to treat the most common form of AMD, known as Dry AMD. Dry AMD reveals itself as a gradual and progressive deterioration of the tissues in the back of the eye in the macula. Among other things, the macula provides vision for colors, reading and driving. One hypothesis regarding the cause of Dry AMD is that the macula requires an extremely high amount of nutrients and oxygen to function. Decreased blood flow would deprive the macula of the nutrients it needs and thus significantly degrade visual function.
In RHEO, blood is filtered in a closed circuit outside the body using special filters. Two specially designed filters remove excess levels of substances known to thicken the blood, decrease blood flow and cause damage to capillary vessels. Clinical studies suggest that the filtered blood is able to flow more easily through even the tiniest capillaries of the eye. This improved microcirculation can more effectively supply the macula with oxygen and nutrients.
However, since not all patients with AMD are eligible to receive RHEO, a thorough screening examination, including an eye exam, as well as a series of blood tests is required before undergoing the procedure.
What is a RHEO treatment like?
RHEO is performed in a comfortable recliner. Two IV lines are used, one in each forearm. Blood is pumped from a large vein in one arm, circulated through the filtration system, and the filtered blood is returned to the patient s body through the IV in the other arm.. Blood pressure and pulse are monitored throughout the treatment.
The average session requires approximately two to four hours to safely treat the blood. The patient’s own filtered blood is returned continuously. Blood anti-coagulants are used to prevent clotting in the tubing system. No foreign blood particles are used and no other blood products are involved.
The therapy works best when patients undergo 8 separate treatments administered in pairs over a period of 10 to 12 weeks. For example, you would have your first treatment on Monday and the second on Wednesday. The next pair of treatments would be scheduled 18 to 28 days later.
For the majority of patients treated, RHEO is a low-risk and well-tolerated procedure. However, as with any other medical treatment, there are certain risks and common side effects. These include, but are not limited to, hypotension (drop in blood pressure), cardiac dysrhythmia (abnormal heart rate), nausea, dizziness, fainting, bruising and bleeding from the IV sites. There are no known long-term side effects from RHEO.
There has been theoretical speculation that RHEO therapy may help some medical conditions other than AMD. However, more definitive results depend on further clinical trials.
You should speak with your eye doctor for further details on the possible benefits, risks, complications and side effects associated with this treatment.