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Extracorporeal Photopheresis

What is Extracorporeal Photopheresis (ECP)?

ECP is a treatment that can be used for patients with problems associated with cutaneous (skin) T-cell lymphoma, skin grafts, and organ transplants. The ECP procedure temporarily draws the patient's blood into a machine that separates the white blood cells, then mixes them with a light-sensitive medication. The white blood cells are exposed to ultraviolet light then returned to the patient where they promote the death of the diseased cells.

ECP is usually a two-day process. The treatment itself takes about three or four hours each day. It's an outpatient procedure so no hospital stay is necessary. The frequency of treatments varies from weekly to monthly depending on your condition.

How Should I Prepare for My ECP Treatment?

  • Eat a low fat diet the day before and day of the ECP. Fatty foods make the ECP less effective.
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of caffeine-free liquids the day before your treatment.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from your first treatment.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows easy access to your arms and chest. Avoid tight pullover shirts.
  • If you are taking blood pressure medication or diuretics (water pills), discuss these with your doctor. We may need you to wait until after your ECP treatment to take these medications. Take all other medications as normal.
  • Bring sunglasses that have UV protection.

Take Care After ECP.

The medication stays in your body for up to 24 hours after ECP. During this time you should protect your skin and eyes to prevent increased risk of cataracts or sunburn-like damage to your skin.

  • Continue to wear sunglasses for 24 hours after your treatment.
  • You do not have to wear sunglasses when you are asleep, in the shower, after sunset, or while watching television as long as the artificial light is kept low.
  • Avoid direct sunlight for 24 hours, and protect your skin with clothing and sunscreen SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin.

Call your doctor if you:

  • have a temperature of 100.4 or higher
  • feel unusually tired, weak, dizzy, light-headed, faint, or ill
  • have shortness of breath
  • have any new symptoms that worry you.


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