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Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital (MVRH)

Veterinarian Holding a Brown Dog in a Clinic

Extracorporeal Therapies


What are extracorporeal therapies?

Extracorporeal therapies including intermittent hemodialysis, hemoperfusion and therapeutic plasma exchange are lifesaving procedures that utilize advanced technologies to filter the blood to remove harmful substances from the body.

What is hemodialysis?

The hemodialysis machine acts as an artificial kidney to process blood and remove toxins and excess water. Hemodialysis may be recommended for many diseases including, treatment of acute kidney injury, some toxin ingestions or prior to surgical treatment for kidney disease. Spectrum of use for intoxication may be extended by the addition of a blood filter in addition to the artificial kidney to provide hemoperfusion.

Will hemodialysis heal the kidneys?

Hemodialysis does not treat the kidney injury. Hemodialysis helps remove the wastes and toxins that build up in the body when the kidneys are unable to do their job. Hemodialysis helps patients to feel better while the kidneys rest and recover.

What is therapeutic plasma exchange?

Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) utilizes a machine that separates blood into red blood cells and plasma. TPE may be recommended for specific intoxications or to treat immune mediated disease. During the treatment, the plasma containing toxins or antibodies is removed and replaced with unaffected donor plasma. This process is often complementary to providing medications to treat an underlying disease.

How many treatments are necessary?

The number of treatments required depends on the cause and severity of the underlying disease. For many intoxications, only a single treatment is necessary. These patients may even be able to go home the next day. In patients with acute kidney injury or immune mediated disease, multiple treatments are necessary over a period of days. During this time, animals stay with us in the hospital and additional therapies will be initiated to help treat the underlying disease. At the time of consultation, we will make a recommendation for the initial number of treatments to expect for your pet and additional medical managements to be undertaken during stay.

What happens during a treatment?

Treatments are not painful and do not require anesthesia. Prior to the first treatment, a catheter will be placed in the neck. This will require a small amount of sedation. During the treatment, we provide a soft and warm bed. We keep the lights turned down in the room to make therapy as relaxing as possible. Many animals even take a nap during their treatment. Skilled technical staff monitor and record many vital parameters to ensure each session is safe and well tolerated. Treatment lasts typically between 2-6 hours every 1-3 days depending on your pets specific needs. Over time, our patients begin to associate the dialysis room with feeling better and look forward to coming in to see us!

What do extracorporeal therapies cost?

Costs are variable and depend on the reason for treatment and duration of therapy. At the time of consultation, we will give you an estimate of the cost of care.

Who We Are

We will work as a team with your regular veterinarian, MassVet Specialist team, and our highly trained veterinary technicians. For questions specifically relating to extracorporeal therapies please feel free to contact our Critical Care team.