LDL Apheresis

Treating high cholesterol with LDL Apheresis

Traditional treatments for high cholesterol are a low fat diet and medications such as the statin family alone or in combination with other drugs (Lipitor™, Zocor™, Pravachol™, Lescol™, lovastatin, Welchol™, Zetia™, Advicor™, and niacin). However, for some persons even combination therapies may not be enough, especially for those with a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease.

There is now an FDA approved treatment option for these patients known as LDL apheresis. LDL apheresis removes unwanted LDL cholesterol from the blood. A machine is used to pump the patient's blood through a filter that selectively removes LDL particles containing the cholesterol.

The University of Michigan is one of the few centers in the United States to perform this procedure, and the only one in Michigan at this time. The procedure is performed in the University Hospital Transfusion and Apheresis Service. Cardiovascular Medicine and Pathology work together to offer this procedure. Individuals are referred to the Lipid Management Program for evaluation of the treatment option. Eligible patients who choose LDL apheresis are followed by our lipid specialists to assure safety, requirements for medications, and desired treatment targets.

What is LDL Apheresis?

LDL apheresis is a procedure similar to kidney dialysis that targets the "bad" cholesterol containing particles including LDL, VLDL, and Lp(a). The patient's blood is separated into cells and plasma, then the plasma is diverted over a column containing a material that locks onto the LDL particles and safely removes it without removing the HDL cholesterol and other important blood substances. The plasma is then returned to the patient.

Individuals undergoing LDL apheresis would go to the Transfusion and Apheresis Service in the University Hospital every two weeks or as indicated by the lipid specialists. The procedure takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete. For more information about the LDL apheresis procedure call the Transfusion and Apheresis Service at 734-936-6900.

Who Would Need LDL Apheresis?

LDL apheresis is indicated for the following individuals for whom diet and maximum drug therapy has either been ineffective or not tolerated:

  • LDL Cholesterol > 200 mg/dl (With Coronary Heart Disease) OR
  • LDL Cholesterol > 300 mg/dl

How effective is LDL Apheresis?

With over 16 years of worldwide experience on more than 2,500 patients and 250,000 tests, the safety and effectiveness of LDL apheresis is well known. There is a low incidence of adverse events (most commonly low blood pressure). The reduction in LDL cholesterol has been shown to reduce heart attacks and the progression of coronary disease, as well as improve vascular function. The research has shown that with LDL apheresis, LDL cholesterol can be reduced by up to 80 percent.

What is the Cost of LDL Apheresis?

Most insurance carriers cover the cost of LDL apheresis, which is approximately $2500 per treatment. We will work with you and your insurance carrier to determine your coverage for this procedure.

How Can I Find Out if I Need LDL Apheresis?

The University of Michigan Lipid Management Program's expert team will evaluate you whether LDL apheresis is right for you. Their team specializes in the evaluation, treatment and management of lipid disorders. Through their evaluation they will determine your best treatment options. To find out more information or to set up an appointment for a Lipid Management consultation call 877-885-8444 and request to speak to the Lipid Management Program nurse coordinator.

Patient Resources

Heart Attack-Prevention Information Guide

High Blood Cholesterol Information Guide