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High Cholesterol Treatment: LDL Apheresis Procedure for Patients with High Cholesterol

University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, is proud to offer the only LDL Apheresis program in northern Ohio. This is a clinical service that provides a valuable therapeutic option for lowering LDL cholesterol in appropriately selected patients.

Most patients with high cholesterol levels are treated using a combination of diet, exercise and medication. Some patients with dangerously high cholesterol, however, do not respond to, or cannot tolerate, drug treatments. LDL apheresis is a treatment that selectively removes LDL cholesterol from the blood of patients with diet- and drug-resistant high cholesterol.

What is LDL Apheresis?

LDL apheresis is a procedure that removes the artery-clogging LDL cholesterol from the blood. It is performed by removing blood from one intravenous line in the patient's arm, filtering it to extract up to 80 percent of the LDL cholesterol, and then returning the filtered blood to the patient via a second intravenous line in the other arm.

Who needs LDL Apheresis?

LDL apheresis may be appropriate for individuals for whom diet, exercise and drug therapy has not been effective or not tolerated. Individuals having problems lowering their LDL cholesterol levels should talk to their doctor about the LDL apheresis program at University Hospitals.

Upon referral to the UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute Lipid Clinic, candidates for the procedure will be reviewed by specialists in the LDL apheresis program.

About the Procedure

What will happen during the procedure?

At University Hospitals, the procedure is performed under the supervision of cardiologists and lipidologists. A nurse will place an intravenous (IV) line into each of two large veins. The blood will be taken from one IV, filtered and then the blood will be returned to the patient via the second IV.

What will I feel?

There may be some minor discomfort at the IV site, but the procedure is not painful. It is normal to feel mildly fatigued during the day the procedure is performed.

How long does LDL apheresis take, and how often is LDL apheresis done?

The procedure generally takes two to three hours to complete and is usually performed once every two weeks.

What are the risks?

LDL apheresis is well tolerated by the majority of patients, with a low incidence of side effects, including low blood pressure and inability to obtain intravenous access, both occurring in less than 2 percent of patients.