Relapses in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are often associated with significant disability impairment which is resultant from poor response to corticosteroids. In such severe cases, plasma exchange (PLEX) may be used, although only a few studies with MS patients have been reported. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of PLEX in severe relapses of MS.
Retrospective study of MS patients treated with PLEX in acute relapses. Data regarding EDSS, annualized relapse rate (ARR), treatment with corticosteroids, number of PLEX sessions, adverse events, and gadolinium enhancement in brain MRI were analysed.
Included 46 patients, 76.09% female (n = 35) with mean age of 38.76 years and mean disease duration of 5.99 years, of which 84.78% had a Relapsing Remitting MS (n = 39), 15.22% Secondary Progressive MS (n = 7). The previous ARR was 1.1 and in 28.26% of the cases (n = 13) PLEX was used in the relapse that led to MS diagnosis. The majority of relapses had motor impairment (69.6%, n = 32), with a median EDSS increase of 1.5 points from baseline (maximum of 6.5) and higher than 1.5 points in 45.65% of cases (n = 21). Brain MRI was available in 69.57% of the cases (n = 32), and gadolinium enhancing lesions were present in 68.75% of cases (n = 22). Corticosteroids were used before PLEX in all patients for a mean of 6.09 days, without any immediate benefit in 41.30% of cases (n = 19), with the remaining cases showing only mild disability recovery. After a mean of 7.39 PLEX sessions, there was clinical benefit with complete EDSS recovery in 41.30% of patients (n = 19), and partial in 39.13% (n = 18). There were no adverse events related to PLEX in 89.13% of patients (n = 41) and in the remaining patients the reported adverse events included deep venous thrombosis (n = 1), anaemia (n = 1), fever (n = 1), hypoalbuminemia (n = 1) and arterial hypotension (n = 1).
Our results support the use of PLEX in severe relapses unresponsive to corticosteroids, since it was an effective and relatively safe treatment for most of our patients.
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