Background and Purpose
Although plasmapheresis is becoming standard practice as a rescue therapy for neuromyelitis optica (NMO), evidence for the therapeutic efficacy of plasmapheresis is limited, and the effect of plasmapheresis on anti-aquaporin-4 (AQP4) levels in patients with NMO has not been reported. Here, our objective was to evaluate the clinical efficacy of therapeutic plasmapheresis and its effect on anti-AQP4 antibody levels in patients with NMO spectrum disorder (NMOSD).
We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 15 patients with NMOSD who had 18 acute attacks and received plasmapheresis because they did not respond to high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (IVMP) therapy. Anti-AQP4 antibodies were measured before and after plasmapheresis. The primary outcomes were functional improvements immediately and 6 months after plasmapheresis, and the secondary outcome was the change in anti-AQP4 antibody serum levels following plasmapheresis.
Plasmapheresis following IVMP therapy led to significant improvement in 50% of the 18 attacks in 15 patients immediately after the procedure was completed, and in 78% (14 attacks) after 6 months. Plasmapheresis was generally well tolerated in all patients. Anti-AQP4 antibody serum levels declined significantly following plasmapheresis, to a mean of 15% of the preplasmapheresis levels. Lower scores on the visual outcome scale recorded before an attack were associated with significant immediate improvement upon the completion of plasmapheresis (p=0.03).
Plasmapheresis following IVMP therapy effectively removed anti-AQP4 antibodies and was accompanied by a substantial improvement in the neurological disability of patients with NMOSD. Lower levels of pre-existing neurological damage may be associated with an improved acute response to plasmapheresis.