What is a Phlebotomy?

HealthcareDecember 17, 2013


A phlebotomy, also known as "bloodletting", is a process that drains blood from the body, for medical purposes. Doctors from the 1800s and in previous years often used bloodletting to cure all sorts of ailments. They believed that human diseases came from "humours", and that bloodletting would restore balance to the body. In reality, when it comes to treating most diseases, this is not the case. While bloodletting sounds like a medieval practice that might have been used by witch doctors, a modern phlebotomy is a valid medical procedure. You might ask yourself, how could it be therapeutic to drain your blood? Actually, there are good reasons for some people to have blood drawn regularly.

In some cases, patients have an excess amount of iron, referred to as hemochromatosis. A phlebotomy can treat an abnormally large amount of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Draining a patient's blood naturally decreases the iron content in blood by removing the red blood cells that carry the iron. The ironic (no pun intended) part is that iron is one of the primary chemicals that helps your blood transport oxygen to your cells, but excess iron can damage the heart and liver. The complications of high iron levels can lead to serious medical issues, and sometimes death, in extreme circumstances. Extra red blood cells in the bloodstream are also known to cause clots that might contribute to heart attacks and strokes.

So, despite the fact that "bloodletting" sounds like a medieval practice, this knowledge gives us a better idea of the clinical value of phlebotomies. For patients with high red blood cell counts or high iron content in their blood, phlebotomies are not only therapeutic, but can also help save their lives. Phlebotomies can be performed not only in hospitals, but in clinics and even blood mobiles. While a phlebotomy has minor side effects, such as fatigue and dizziness, they are temporary and cause no long term damage. And the best part? With the right amount of training, you can solve a major medical problem, simply by learning how to draw blood.

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