Blood Disorders

If you have been referred to a hematologist, there has likely been an abnormality detected from a blood test.  Hematologists care for patients with a variety of blood disorders, both benign and malignant.  The most common blood disorders that are considered benign include anemia and bleeding or clotting disorders.  Malignant blood disorders include leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Blood Basics

Blood has four basic components: white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Each component has a special function:

  • White blood cells (leukocytes) fight infection
  • Red blood cells (erythrocytes) carry oxygen from the lungs to the heart,      organs and tissues
  • Platelets are necessary to make blood clot and prevent unnecessary bleeding
  • Plasma is the fluid that carries waste products from the blood to the liver and      kidneys

Having too many or not enough of any of these components will result in abnormal blood tests and may result in specific health problems.  A hematologist will do further tests to determine what the cause of the blood abnormality is and how to best treat it.

Bone marrow

Blood cells are produced and mature in the bone marrow.  It may be necessary for the doctor to do a bone marrow aspiration to detect why the marrow isn’t functioning correctly.  This simple procedure is done in the office under local anesthetic and takes less than half an hour.  The specimen is then sent to the pathology lab at the hospital for processing.  Results are usually available in 3-5 days.  Your insurance will be billed separately by the hospital and the pathologist for processing and reading the slides.

Did you know?

A bone marrow aspiration is NOT the same as a bone marrow transplant.  The aspiration is a diagnostic test; it allows for a sample to be taken and tested.  A bone marrow transplant is a life-saving measure that kills off a patient’s dysfunctional bone marrow and replaces it with treated/healthy marrow from the patient or a donor.  This often requires a lengthy hospitalization and recovery period.

Blood Disorders

Anemia is the most common blood disorder in America and may result from poor dietary habits, chronic diseases (i.e., kidney failure), and intestinal problems, to name a few.  It is diagnosed with a simple CBC (complete blood count) showing a low hemoglobin; to determine the specific type or cause of anemia, other lab work may be required.    More information about anemia can be found here 

Bleeding disorders range from hemophilia, which is rare to von Willebrand disease, which is much more common in the US.  You can find more information about bleeding disorders here.

Clotting disorders occur when platelets malfunction and create a blockage (thrombosis) of an artery or vein.  Treatment with anticoagulants will likely be necessary to dissolve the clot.  When a clot dislodges and moves it is referred to as an embolism which can be very dangerous, even fatal.  More information about clotting disorders can be found here.