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The role of plasma exchange in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis: a meta-analysis



Plasma exchange (PLEX) in addition to standard immunosuppressive treatment in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AVV) remains controversial. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of PLEX on AVV outcomes.


Literature search was performed using Medline, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, databases, and Google Scholar. The statistical meta-analysis and leave-one-out analysis were conducted using the Review Manager 5.3 and Open Meta-Analyst software, respectively.


Ten studies were included in the meta-analysis comprising 1235 patients; 633 received conventional treatment and 602 were treated with PLEX in conjunction with induction therapy. PLEX was not associated with lower rates of either mortality at 3 (RR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.19–3.25) and 12 months (RR: 0.73, 95% CI: 0.40–1.34) or ESRD at 3 (RR: 0.30, 95% CI: 0.30–2.42) and 12 months (RR: 1.32, 95% CI: 0.53–3.25). Similarly, no differences were captured concerning disease relapses (RR: 0.92, 95% CI: 0.62–1.36), the incidence of infections (RR: 1.05, 95% CI: 0.63–1.76), and severe adverse effects (RR: 1.04, 95% CI: 0.59–1.81). Time-to-event analysis revealed lower incidence of ESRD (HR: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.55–0.92) among patients who received PLEX, while the overall mortality was similar (HR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.72–1.29) between the two groups.


The present meta-analysis does not support the wide use of PLEX for the management of AAV in routine clinical practice. Future well-designed randomized controlled trials focusing on specific disease-related manifestations are necessary to reach firm conclusions about the potential efficacy of PLEX.

Key Points
• PLEX is not widely recommended for the management of ANCA-associated vasculitis.
• PLEX performance may reduce the overall incidence of ESRD in severe ANCA-associated vasculitis.
• Well-designed randomized controlled trials focusing on specific disease-related manifestations are necessary to reach firm conclusions about the potential efficacy of PLEX on AAV-related outcome.

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Correspondence to Dionysis Nikolopoulos.

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Bellos, I., Michelakis, I. & Nikolopoulos, D. The role of plasma exchange in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis: a meta-analysis. Clin Rheumatol 40, 1447–1456 (2021).

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  • ANCA
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Plasma exchange
  • Meta-analysis
  • Vasculitis