Apheresis is a word derived from Greek meaning ‘to take away’. During apheresis, patients are connected to an apheresis machine which is able to separate blood into layers of fluid and cells. This enables us to remove a part of the blood which may be diseased to treat the symptoms of an illness or to allow cells to be collected. The Apheresis department is situated next to Day Oncology on Level 3 of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre. We treat people living with cancer as well as people with illnesses that are not related to cancer.

The Apheresis department also has a nurse-led Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, or PICC, team. You may need a PICC line for administration of your chemotherapy, long-term antibiotics or intravenous nutrition. A PICC line is inserted by our nurses under sterile conditions using some local anaesthetic. The procedure can take up to one hour and can be done as an outpatient.

Why you might need Apheresis

A number of cancer types have symptoms that can be relieved by apheresis. For example the high number of abnormal blood cells produced as a result of leukaemia can be removed to reduce blood clotting. Alternatively, you may be receiving apheresis for a condition that is not related to cancer. Apheresis is also used as part of haematology treatments, such as stem cell collection for stem cell transplants. There are a range of apheresis procedures that we perform for a variety of reasons. You may come to us for the following treatments:

  • Peripheral blood stem cell collection
  • Plasma exchange
  • Cholesterol filtration (LDL apheresis)
  • Granulocyte collection
  • Red cell exchange
  • Leukapheresis


You may feel tired after your treatment so we recommend you have a support person with you who is able to drive or accompany you home. They are able to sit with you while you receive your treatment. Apheresis is an outpatient procedure, meaning you do not need to stay overnight at the Centre in order to receive it. It generally takes around three to four hours, but a peripheral stem cell collection can take longer and varies from patient to patient.

Before your appointment, please ensure that you eat your usual meal, drink plenty of fluids and take your usual medication before your appointment, unless told otherwise by your doctor or nurse. Drinking lots of water and keeping warm before your appointment can help staff find a suitable vein for your treatment. Wear comfortable clothes with loose sleeves, as the nursing staff will need to put a needle into your arm to perform the procedure. If you have a central line catheter such as a vascath or permacath, please wear clothes that allow easy access to your chest. While receiving your treatment you will be in a comfortable reclining chair in your own private cubicle that has a TV. Feel free to bring something to do as your treatment could take several hours.

Apheresis, ONJ Centre

+61 3 9496 5301

Monday to Friday 8am-4.30pm