Phlebotomy is a procedure that removes blood from the body. Regular phlebotomy treats people who have too much iron in their blood, such as with hemochromatosis, or who are producing too many red blood cells, such as with polycythemia. Removing blood regularly decreases iron levels in the body by reducing the number of iron-rich red blood cells.
Health professionals perform phlebotomy in a medical clinic. The process is similar to donating blood. A health professional inserts a needle into a vein in your arm and removes about 500 mL(16.9 fl oz) of blood. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. You do not need to fast or make special preparations before phlebotomy.
Health professionals will have you sit or lie down. During the procedure, they monitor your blood pressure and pulse.
What To Expect After Treatment
Some people feel tired or dizzy after phlebotomy. Sometimes a health professional will give you something to drink afterwards to replace some of the fluid you will lose. You may want to have a family member or friend take you home after the procedure.
Why It Is Done
Excess iron is often stored in the organs, especially the liver. Eventually, the excess iron can cause serious organ and tissue damage. Phlebotomy lowers iron levels by removing iron-rich blood cells from the body.
How Well It Works
Removal of excess iron can significantly reduce the possibility of severe and even life-threatening damage to the liver and other organs.
Phlebotomy is safe when done by a health professional. You may develop a small bruise at the puncture site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the puncture site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn. On rare occasions, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times daily. There is also a small risk of infection at the puncture site.
What To Think About
Depending upon the cause of iron excess, you may not need phlebotomy as often once iron levels are at a safe level.