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What is clinical haematology?

Clinical haematology is the study of diseases of the blood and bone marrow, and how to treat them. Clinical haematologists diagnose and look after people with these diseases

What are the different components of blood and what do they do?

Red cells give blood its color and account for 40 to 50% of its volume.

  • Their main function is to carry oxygen from the lungs to all the cells of the body and remove waste products such as carbon dioxide.
  • Transfusions are used to treat people with severe anemia, those whose red blood cells do not function adequately and people experiencing severe bleeding such as accident victims and patients undergoing surgery.
  • Red cells are stored in a refrigerator and have a shelf life of up to 42 days. Platelets are components of blood that assist in the blood clotting process.
  • They are literally tiny plates that wedge together covering tears in the blood vessels and preventing blood from leaking into surrounding tissue.
  • The primary use of platelets is in the treatment of people with various cancers and other diseases such as leukemia where the bone marrow is unable to produce adequate numbers of platelets, as well as for people receiving medical treatments like chemotherapy which can decrease a person platelet count. Platelets are also used to treat people suffering severe blood loss.
  • Platelets are stored at room temperature and have a shelf life of only 5 days. This is why it is vital to have a constant flow of blood donations coming in. Plasma is the straw colored fluid in which the red cells, white cells and platelets are suspended.
  • Plasma is the most versatile component of blood as it can be processed into a variety of products and each product can be used to treat a number of potentially life threatening conditions.
  • Plasma is stored frozen and has a shelf life of up to 12 months

It is possible to give platelet or plasma-only donations every 2 weeks

What are blood disorders?

Blood disorders affect one or more parts of the blood and prevent your blood from doing its job. They can be acute or chronic. Many blood disorders are inherited. Other causes include other diseases, side effects of medicines, and a lack of certain nutrients in your diet.

Types of blood disorders include:

  • Platelet disorders, excessive clotting, and bleeding problems, which affect how your blood clots
  • Anemia, which happens when your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body
  • Cancers of the blood, such as leukemia and myeloma
  • Eosinophilic disorders, which are problems with one type of white blood cell.

What is aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia happens when your bone marrow stops making enough blood-forming stem cells. Most experts believe aplastic anemia happens when your immune system attacks and kills your stem cells. This causes you to have low blood counts for all three types of blood cells. Low blood counts result in symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, risk for infections, bleeding and bruising. This disease can be classified as moderate (MAA), severe (SAA) or very severe (VAA) depending on how low your blood counts are.

What are the treatments for Aplastic anemia?

The key goal of aplastic anemia treatment is to increase the number of healthy cells in your blood (blood count). When your blood counts go up you are less likely to need blood from a donor (transfusion), your quality of life becomes better and your symptoms are not as bad.
Your doctor will look at several issues to find the best treatment plan for you. These include how severe your symptoms are, your age, other conditions or diseases you have and whether someone is willing and able to donate matching bone marrow to you (preferably a family member).

There are several treatments and treatment approaches your doctor may consider. These include:

  • Supportive care helps manage the symptoms of your aplastic anemia. Its goals are to increase blood counts and treat infections. Supportive care treatments typically include blood transfusions and antibiotics, and may include growth factors or iron chelation for some patients.
  • Immunosuppressivetherapy lowers your body immune response. This therapy uses medicines to keep the immune system from attacking the bone marrow stem cells. ATG (antithymocyte globulin) and cyclosporine are the medicines typically used.
  • Bone marrow transplantation replaces your unhealthy blood-forming stem cells with healthy ones from a donor.

What is MDS?

MDS (myelodysplastic syndromes) is a group of disorders in which your blood-forming stem cells are defective and fail to make enough healthy blood cells. These diseases happen because the bone marrow cells do not develop into mature blood cells. Instead, these blood cells stay within the bone marrow in an immature state. To be diagnosed with MDS, you must have low blood counts for at least one blood cell type and your blood cells must look abnormal under a microscope. Doctors must examine your bone marrow to give you a definite diagnosis of MDS. The symptoms and the course of MDS are different for each person depending on which blood cells are affected.

What is supportive care?

Doctors will sometimes refer to certain treatments as supportive care. The goal of supportive care is to help you manage the symptoms of your disease. These treatments do not treat the underlying cause of the disease.

General, supportive care includes the following:

  • Blood transfusions to raise blood cell counts
  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Iron chelation therapy to treat iron overload, a side effect of getting many red blood cell transfusions
  • Growth factors may also be used as supportive care.
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