LDL Apheresis

Help for high cholesterol

More than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol.  For most, cholesterol levels can be controlled with proper nutrition, exercise and medication.  But in rare cases, high cholesterol needs advanced help.

Familial Hypercholesterolemia is a genetic cause of very high cholesterol.  LDL apheresis is an advanced treatment for people with Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) whose cholesterol cannot be controlled with medication and diet alone.  This lifesaving care is available through Mobile Health Team in Northeast Wisconsin.  

How does LDL apheresis help?

LDL apheresis works by cleansing the blood of LDL “bad” cholesterol while leaving the HDL “good” cholesterol.  LDL levels are reduced as much as 83 percent with one treatment.  This procedure also lowers another type of cholesterol, called lipoprotein (a).

Do I qualify for LDL apheresis therapy?

If you have worked with your doctor to lower your cholesterol through diet, exercise and more than one type of cholesterol medication therapy, but it has not produced the desired results, LDL apheresis may be right for you.  The treatment is recommended for:
• people with familial hypercholesterolemia (an inherited form of high cholesterol) with LDL levels higher than 200 mg/dL
• people diagnosed with heart disease whose LDL cholesterol is higher than 200 mg/dL
• people at risk for heart disease whose LDL cholesterol is higher than 300 mg/dL

What should I expect during treatment?

LDL apheresis involves inserting a small needle into the vein to draw blood from one arm while your own cleansed blood is returned into the other arm.  The LDL-heavy blood is run through a machine that separates plasma from whole blood, removes LDL from the plasma, then reunites this “clean” plasma with the whole blood before infusing it back into the body.  Your own blood is returned and used to restore your body’s cholesterol balance.

Each treatment lasts about three hours.  Nurses monitor you closely as you undergo each session and help to make you as comfortable as possible.  You are welcome to enjoy reading material, cable television and beverages during your therapy.

Because the body will continue producing LDL cholesterol, patients must repeat treatments every two to three weeks.  Most patients will also continue taking medication in addition to receiving LDL apheresis therapy. 

What are the benefits?

LDL apheresis can lower LDL levels drastically.  Most importantly, LDL apheresis reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, offering patients a new outlook on life.

How will it affect my lifestyle?

We understand LDL apheresis therapy requires a commitment of time and courage.  Our staff will work with you to plan treatments according to your schedule.  We strive to make your experience as convenient and comfortable as possible.  Because we share the same goal – achieving your optimum heart health and a better quality of life – we want to help you welcome LDL apheresis as a normal part of your lifestyle. 

Will insurance cover LDL apheresis?

As with all medical treatments, LDL apheresis is subject to the terms of your individual insurance coverage.  Most insurance policies do cover LDL apheresis treatment in cases of medical necessity.  Once you have been seen by our cholesterol specialist, a case manager will work through the insurance process to determine your coverage. 

How do I start treatment?

The LDL apheresis program is a collaborative service between Fox Valley Nephrology and Mobile Health Team.   We welcome patients from throughout Northeast Wisconsin and surrounding communities.  Talk with your doctor about how this advanced treatment can help you. 

Your doctor must refer you for a lipidology evaluation for LDL apheresis therapy.  If your lipidologist recommends LDL apheresis, then a nurse specialist will enroll you in the program.

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