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Adverse effects of therapeutic phlebotomies: Prospective study of 587 procedures.

Transfusion 2024 May 7
BACKGROUND: Therapeutic phlebotomy (TP), a widely used medical procedure, can be performed on diverse patients with iron overload or polyglobulia. However, its adverse events are not well known as most of the information on phlebotomy is derived from healthy blood donors (0.1%-5.3%). In contrast, TP is applicable to a broader, more complex population with comorbidities and old age. To ascertain the incidence of adverse events in phlebotomies, we conducted a prospective study on patients who attended our Unit.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: We prospectively gathered data from patients referred to our Unit for TP. Data regarding demographics, health status, and adverse events within at least 24 h of phlebotomy were gathered via a structured questionnaire during each visit.

RESULTS: Between August 2021 and September 2022, 189 patients underwent 587 procedures. Most patients were men, over 60 (57.3%) had comorbidities, and 93% underwent at least two procedures during the study period. Twenty patients (10.8%) presented 25 adverse events (4.3% of phlebotomies), usually vasovagal reactions, none of which were clinically relevant, and all were managed by nursing staff on site, with full patient recovery.

DISCUSSION: The rate of adverse events (<5%) in patients undergoing TP was low and comparable to that seen in healthy blood donors. Consequently, even old patients and those with some comorbidities can safely undergo TP when the process is carefully managed.

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