Treating Angioedema With Fresh-Frozen Plasma

As medicine advances, so does our understanding of how to treat complex conditions like angioedema. Angioedema is a type of deep tissue swelling that most commonly occurs in the face, lips, tongue, feet, or genitals.

Fresh-frozen plasma offers a targeted approach to helping alleviate symptoms of angioedema, provide relief, and significantly decrease the risk of swelling-related breathing difficulties or swallowing.

In this article, we’ll explore the role of fresh-frozen plasma in angioedema treatment, but first, let’s quickly define what is plasma.

What Is Plasma

Plasma is a yellow liquid that comprises about 55% of your blood. It is the medium that carries all the specialized cells in your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Plasma is rich in hormones, proteins, nutrients, electrolytes, antibodies, and essential blood clotting factors.

Plasma plays many vital roles, including maintaining your body’s pH balance, helping blood to clot, regulating inflammation, and carrying water and nutrients to your cells.

What Is Fresh-Frozen Plasma (FFP)?

Fresh-frozen plasma (FFP) is plasma that has been frozen soon after being donated. If kept frozen, it can last up to 1 year and be transported to those needing it for various conditions.

Like plasma, FFP is used to treat individuals with clotting disorders, liver disease, or severe blood loss. It also helps regulate blood pressure and inflammatory responses.

What Is Hereditary Angioedema?

Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is a rare genetic condition affecting approximately one in every 50,000 people. It typically begins in childhood or puberty and continues throughout life.

Hereditary angioedema involves the deficit or dysfunction of the C1 inhibitor, an essential substance in plasma that helps regulate various body processes. This deficit results in excess bradykinin, a protein that regulates blood pressure and inflammatory responses.

Too much bradykinin leads to two serious symptoms of HAE: swelling of the intestinal tract and the upper airway. Dangerous airway swelling can lead to suffocation and death if not treated promptly.

Many things, including illness, stress, fever, and trauma, can trigger angioedema attacks. Surgeries, including certain dental procedures, can also trigger swelling. Attacks may occur once or twice monthly and can last for hours or days.

HAE is a serious and often disabling disease, necessitating precautions and treatments, like FFP, to prevent potentially fatal attacks.

Why Do You Give FFP For Angioedema?

Fresh-frozen plasma from a healthy donor contains the C1 inhibitor that is lacking or dysfunctional in someone with hereditary angioedema.

Transfusions of FFP can help reduce excess bradykinin in the blood of someone with hereditary angioedema, preventing or treating acute attacks.

Before a possible trigger, such as a surgery or stressor, FFP can be given intravenously to help prevent dangerous swelling. FFP transfusions can also be given to someone experiencing an acute attack.

How Else Does Plasma Help With Angioedema?

Medications derived from plasma can also be used to prevent and treat attacks in those with hereditary angioedema.

A C1 inhibitor concentrate can be derived from donated plasma.

Another form of angioedema is associated with a reaction to ACE inhibitors, a family of medications used to treat high blood pressure. A small number of people may experience a severe reaction when taking an ACE inhibitor medication, resulting in dangerous airway swelling. Fresh-frozen plasma may be used to help treat a swelling attack.

Donate Plasma at at PlasmaSource

Donating plasma can help change the lives of adults and children with hereditary angioedema and many other health conditions. Donating plasma and platelets helps patients in need, supports disease prevention research, and facilitates the development of vital pharmaceuticals.

We encourage you to learn more about how plasma saves lives and contact us to schedule a donation.