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Bleeding and Clotting Disorders

Blood transfusions

03/10/2008

Question:

my husband was just told he needed to start blood transfusions weekly. they said his blood was too thick and it could be stroke related, bone marrow cancer or several other things. we are going to a second doctor; but are scared to death and want to know what to ask. this is not the correct spelling (flowbodame) but that is the term they used. PLEASE help if u can.

Answer:

What you are describing I believe is polycythemia, which is when the red blood cell count is too high. This can be a secondary process to another disease (lung conditions, smoking) that can cause the rise in the red cells secondarily, or it could be a primary process meaning that the bone marrow itself for no reason is making too many red cells. If the red cell count gets too high, the blood can be too thick and can cause symptoms including fatigue, headache, or in the extreme case - strokes or heart issues.

What the doctor will be doing is trying to find out why it is happening (primary v. secondary) and can also talk about treatment. Depending on the cause taking off a unit of blood (phlebotomy) can help the symptoms. What you need to talk to the doctor about is the cause of the red cell elevation. There will likely be other tests that have to be done to figure this out.

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Response by:

Spero R Cataland, MD Spero R Cataland, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University