Therapeutic Phlebotomy

The removal of blood for health purposes has been practiced for several thousand years. Across many societies, the act of “bloodletting”, or removal of blood, was thought to cure a multitude of ailments. Ancient Egyptians (circa 1000 BC) believed that occasionally self- sacrificing some blood improved spirituality and cured the body of any illness present. Other ancient societies like the Mayan’s encouraged bloodletting for religious purposes.The removal of blood for health purposes has been practiced for several thousand years. Across many societies the act of “bloodletting”, or removal of blood, was thought to cure a multitude of ailments. Ancient Egyptians (circa 1000 BC) believed that occasionally self- sacrificing some blood improved spirituality and cured the body of any illness present. Other ancient societies like the Mayan’s encouraged bloodletting for religious purposes.

Therapeutic Phlebotomy With a TRT Protocol

Throughout the advancement of our understanding of how the human body works we slowly realized that getting rid of blood does not cure all illnesses, however, there is a benefit from this procedure under specific circumstances.

Today we call the procedure of removing excess red blood cells Therapeutic Phlebotomy, which is the treatment of choice for blood disorders in which the removal of red blood cells and/or iron is needed to manage disease symptoms and reduce complications.

‘Polycythemia’ is one of the more common conditions effectively treated using therapeutic phlebotomy. Polycythemia is the excessive production of red blood cells. With polycythemia, the blood becomes very viscous or "sticky," making it harder for the heart to pump. High blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks can occur in left untreated. People with polycythemia usually experience fatigue, weakness, headaches, and hypertension. Polycythemia is a symptom that occurs with a variety of known and sometimes unknown origins.

Here are just some examples of known origins of polycythemia:

  • Heavy smoking

  • Dehydration

  • High levels of stress

  • Lung diseases or disorder

  • Certain medications and drugs

  • Exposure to high altitudes

  • Too much Testosterone (see below)

  • Obesity

Testosterone (TRT) & Elevated Red Blood Cell Production- Polycythemia

Some men and women are genetically prone to getting polycythemia, and more commonly people have poor lifestyle choices which result in too many blood cells (smoking, for example). The association between testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) and polycythemia has been reported for the past few years as the use of testosterone replacement has become more common. In addition to increasing muscle and sex drive, testosterone can increase the body's production of red blood cells. This hematopoietic (blood-building) effect could be a good thing for those with mild anemia.

Most men on Testosterone Replacement Therapy who are being properly monitored by an experienced TRT doctor do not experience polycythemia. 

For those patients who do experience elevated red blood cells, it can be effectively reversed with therapeutic phlebotomy where typically one pint or blood is removed and discarded. This could also be done by volunteering for a blood donation in which one pint is usually taken. 

Once the phlebotomy is complete many patients immediately feel better and high blood pressure returns to normal. People who suffer from chronic polycythemia may need routine therapeutic phlebotomies to keep red blood cells within a consistent healthy range.

Testing Hematocrit Is Important for Patients on TRT Follow-up blood testing is required at least twice per year for any patient receiving hormone and testosterone medications. One of the reasons follow-up testing is important is to monitor red blood cells including one of its primary components called hematocrit. 


Possible Health Benefits

Therapeutic Phlebotomy can be an important new method of treatment for some patients, especially for people who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). A small study conducted by Immanuel Hospital in Berlin found that therapeutic phlebotomy caused a marked decrease in both blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels. 

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B. Dixon - Owner - Redmond Athletic Club

"My experience so far with Optimal Anti-Aging and Functional Medicine in Redmond, Oregon has been fantastic. From the beginning, they have shown me that they have my best interests in mind. The process has been timely and way more smooth than I expected. Unlike past doctors and medical professionals, they weren't just quick to prescribe me something so I can be on my way. They asked me about my goals and challenges. They have also been very thorough in my lab testing. They make sure to look at all angles with my blood work and not just the issue at hand - low T.  Thank you Optimal Anti-Aging and Functional Medicine in Redmond, I know you got me!"