Questions And Answers About Therapeutic Phlebotomy

When you see a phlebotomy cart enter a room, you may only think of medical diagnostic services. However, phlebotomy can also be performed for therapeutic reasons. Here are a few questions and answers about a therapeutic phlebotomy:

Why is therapeutic phlebotomy performed? 

Therapeutic phlebotomy is performed for restorative medical purposes. Here are three blood disorders for which therapeutic phlebotomy is used:


A person who has polycythemia has too much blood. It is caused by an increase in the number of red blood cells that are circulating through a person's system.


This condition involves the manner in which a person's body uses iron. The person's body may absorb too much iron from the food and drinks that he or she ingests. The excess iron can be stored in the organs of the body, including the pancreas, liver and even the skin. This can eventually bring about cirrhosis of the liver, congestive heart failure, diabetes and an enlargement of the heart. In addition, there may be an increase in the person's skin pigment.


Porphyries is a condition in which the spleen and liver becomes enlarged. It is accompanied by red-hued urine, sensitivity to light and excessive skin pigmentation.

How frequently is a therapeutic phlebotomy needed?

Therapeutic phlebotomy may be required every couple of days until the negative symptoms associated with the blood condition improve. In addition, the therapeutic service may be regularly scheduled to help control the condition.

Where are therapeutic phlebotomies conducted?

Therapeutic phlebotomies can be performed at a physician's office, in a medical laboratory or in a hospital setting.

Can the blood collected during a therapeutic phlebotomy be used for blood transfusions?

In most instances, the blood gathered through a therapeutic phlebotomy cannot be used for transfusions. However, the blood from people with hemochromatosis may be used in instances in which the patient has passed all required screenings and tests.

What does the medical staff need to know before performing a therapeutic phlebotomy?

Before a therapeutic phlebotomy can be performed, a doctor's order should be available detailing the volume of blood that needs to be drawn, how often the phlebotomy should occur and the targeted hemoglobin level. Usually, before a phlebotomy order is given, the physician will have already conducted a medical history and a physical. In addition, he or she will have obtained the patient's consent for the procedure to be performed.

If you have further questions about a therapeutic phlebotomy, consult with a physician in your area.