Extracorporeal Photopheresis

Children’s National Health System leads the field in making bone marrow1 transplants safer and more effective for your child. Our team has helped to pioneer extracorporeal photopheresis, a novel technique used to fight transplant complications like graft-versus-host disease.2 

Expertise in Using Extracorporeal Photopheresis to Fight Graft-Versus-Host Disease

We are proud to be one of the only programs in the country offering extracorporeal photopheresis, a painless procedure which alters your child’s white blood cell3 function to fight graft-versus-host disease. Highlights of our program include:

  • Expertise: Children’s National is home to an international leader in pediatric bone marrow transplantation and graft-versus-host disease, David Jacobsohn, M.D., ScM.
  • Research: Our team of experts leads groundbreaking research in many aspects of extracorporeal photopheresis. Learn more about research and clinical trials.
  • Early Intervention: As graft-versus-host disease experts, we specialize in identifying the first signs of this condition to protect your child from severe complications.
  • Safety: As an experienced transplant program, we take every precaution to ensure all children have a safe procedure.

Extracorporeal Photopheresis: What to Expect

If extracorporeal photopheresis is right for your child, we will guide you through every step of the process and answer any questions you may have.

Here’s what to expect:

  1. A large sample of your child’s blood is drawn through an intravenous (IV) line.
  2. Using a special machine, white blood cells are separated from other blood cells.
  3. The machine mixes your child’s white blood cells with a medication that becomes active when exposed to ultraviolet light.
  4. A light inside the machine then activates the medication. This treats your child’s white blood cells.
  5. The treated white blood cells are combined with the rest of your child’s blood cells. The cells are then returned to his or her body through an IV line.
  6. The treated blood cells stimulate your child’s immune system to fight graft-versus-host disease.

After this procedure has been completed, we will discuss any precautions your child needs to take, such as avoiding sunlight for 24 hours. Your child may need more than one treatment to completely fight off graft-versus-host disease.

Contact Us

For more information, please call our coordinator at 202-476-1297.


Glossary of Terms

1 Bone Marrow: The spongy center of bones that is the “factory” for all blood cells in circulation
2 Graft-Versus-Host Disease: A condition in which the donor’s transplanted marrow or stem cells react against the patient’s tissues. It is referred to as GVHD and most often affects the skin, gastrointestinal tract and/or liver
3 White Blood Cell: Also called a “leukocyte,” a type of blood cell produced by the bone marrow to help fight infection

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