Taking blood - called venesection or phlebotomy in medical language - reduces red blood cell counts in people with PV. It has very few risks.
If you have polycythaemia vera, you have too many red blood cells. One way to reduce your red cell count that does not require any medication at all is to use a procedure called venesection or phlebotomy.
It’s a simple procedure done just like having a blood draw or making a blood donation – a doctor or nurse inserts a needle into your vein and collects some blood.
Patients with PV need about anywhere from 350 ml to 500 ml of blood removed during venesection. The amount depends on your height and weight as well as your haematocrit level and your general state of health.
Phlebotomy (or venesection) is a standard treatment for polycythaemia vera and helps bring your red cell count closer to normal. Your haematologist will ask you to come to hospital to have some blood removed.
You may need regular venesections every few weeks or months until you reach an acceptable blood thickness level. Your target blood thickness (haematocrit) depends on your risk factors, how well you tolerate the procedure and whether you’ve had any previous complications such as a clot.
Phlebotomy has some real advantages for people with polycythaemia vera:
With regular venesections, your haematocrit (or packed cell volume) can reach a normal level, allowing your heart to pump blood more efficiently.
You may need low-dose aspirin therapy and/or a cytoreductive treatment such as hydroxycarbamide or anagrelide in addition to regular phlebotomies. Your haematologist can work with you to find the best combination for your individual condition.
You may feel tired after giving blood, and you may have some local soreness or bruising, but serious side effects are very uncommon.
These are top tips for phlebotomy shared by people with polycythaemia vera. Share your top tips by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes. We recommend that you eat a normal, healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
It is safe to drink alcohol in moderation, but we recommend you do not exceed the recommended weekly limits of 21 units of alcohol per week for a man and 14 units for a woman if you have an MPD. Alcohol can cause dehydration, and it is important to avoid becoming dehydrated if you have an MPD. Please ask your nurse or doctor if you require more information regarding alcohol consumption.
Venesection or removal of blood is a safe treatment if you are pregnant or planning to father a child. If you are pregnant, you may need fewer phlebotomies during your pregnancy. Please see our pregnancy section for more information on pregnancy in MPDs.
Your doctor or specially-trained nurse will take blood.
You may feel faint or fatigued after venesection. If you are feeling drowsy or fatigued for any reason do not drive.
Please make the nurse performing your venesections aware, if you have any of the following conditions or are taking any of these medications:
If any of the above applies to you your medical team may need to take special precautions to ensure that venesection can be carried out safely.