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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 (17 fl oz) of blood. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. You do not need to fast or make special preparations before phlebotomy. But try to eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids before phlebotomy. This will prevent dizziness or fainting.
Health professionals will have you sit or lie down. During the procedure, they monitor your blood pressure and pulse.
Some people feel tired or dizzy after phlebotomy. You might get relief from these symptoms by resting for the next 24 hours and drinking plenty of fluids. You may want to have a family member or friend take you home after the procedure.
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.
Removing excess iron can greatly reduce the risk of severe and even life-threatening damage to the liver and other organs.footnote 1
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
CitationsBacon BR, et al. (2011). Diagnosis and management of hemochromatosis: 2011 practice guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology, 54(1): 328–343.
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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