Other MG Treatments

Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, is used to modify the immune system malfunction. It can be used to treat severe worsening of symptoms (exacerbations) or in preparation for surgery (thymectomy) in patients who have myasthenia gravis.

In this procedure, blood is removed from the body and blood cells are separated from the liquid portion of the blood (plasma). Then, AChR antibodies are removed and blood cells are diluted with artificial plasma (usually a solution of saline and sterilized human albumin protein) and infused back into the body.

Typically, 2 to 3 liters of plasma is removed and replaced during a single treatment, which takes several hours. Most patients undergo several sessions over the course of 2 weeks or more. Plasmapheresis improves MG symptoms within days and improvement lasts 6–8 weeks.

Risks include low blood pressure, dizziness, blurred vision, and formation of blood clots (thrombosis).

Thymectomy is surgical removal of the thymus gland. It is usually performed on patients with a tumor of the thymus (thymoma) and patients younger than age 55 with generalized MG. Benefits of thymectomy develop gradually and most improvement occurs years after the procedure is performed.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015