Hematology is the study that involves research, treatment, and prevention of blood disorders as well as disorders related to the lymphatic system. A condition of the red or white blood cells, platelets, bone marrow, blood vessels, lymph node, and spleen may require a visit to the hematologist.
Here are some of the conditions that hematology covers:
Hemophilia –disease that does not let the blood clot
Sepsis – a blood infection
Leukemia – cancer that harms blood cells
Lymphoma – a cancer affecting lymph nodes
Sickle cell anemia – it prevents the free movement of red blood cells in the circulatory system
Thalassemia – this is a condition preventing the body from producing enough hemoglobin
Anemia – a condition that results in deficit of red blood cells in the body
Deep Vein Thrombosis – a condition resulting in the clotting of blood within the veins
Tests Involved in hematology
For the diagnosis of blood disorders, hematologists use the following tests:
Complete Blood Count (CBC):
Complete blood count is done to keep a count of the different components of blood including red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit which is the amount of blood cells in proportion to plasma in the body.
Prothrombin Time (PT)
The purpose of this test is to check how long it takes for blood to clot. A protein called prothrombin is produced by the liver which helps blood to clot. Patients who have a liver problem or those using a blood thinner can use this test to monitor the condition.
Partian Prothrombin Time (PTT)
Similar to prothrombin time test, a partial prothrombin time test also measures the time taken for blood to clot. If there’s any unusual bleeding in the body, from nosebleed to heavy periods, or even bruises, PTT can help find out the blood disorder in the body.
International Normalized Ratio (INR)
If the patient is using a blood thinner, the doctor may choose to compare the results of blood clotting tests with reports from other labs to ensure that the blood thinner is working fine. This process will ensure that liver is functioning well. The comparison and calculation is known as international normalized ratio (INR). INR testing is also possible at home with the help of some devices.
Procedures in Hematology
Some of the procedures that hematologists may be required to do are:
- Ablation therapy: this is the procedure of removal of abnormal tissue with the help of extreme heat or cold temperatures, lasers or chemicals.
- Blood transfusion
- Transplants of the bone marrow
- Chemotherapy and biological therapies for cancer treatments
- Growth factor treatments
Hematologists often have to work with other doctors and specialists as blood disorders can occur in any part of the body. Some of the specialists that hematologists have to collaborate with regularly include internists, pathologists, radiologists, and oncologists. Hematology is used for both adults and children, and can be practiced in hospital, clinics, or in laboratories.
Completing medical school is the first step of being a specialist in hematology. Thereafter, there is a 2-year residency program wherein the graduates can train in any specialty area, for example internal medicine. Once the residency is complete, doctors undergo a 2-4 year fellowship program for hematology, which also covers a subspecialty like pediatric hematology.
Visiting the Doctor
There are some things that you need to be prepared with while going to the hematologist. Firstly, like a discussion with any doctor, an honest dialogue is extremely necessary. Some of the tips that will ensure that you receive the best treatment options in hematology are:
- Before the visit: Prepare a list of questions that you’d like to ask the doctor. Also, don’t forget to list down the symptoms that you’ve been observing. Try to make a journal and be as accurate as the condition as possible. Also, list down the medications you’re currently taking.
- During the visit: It’s better if someone accompanies you on your visit to the hematologist. Do not keep any information from the doctor. The doctor will be able to help better if he knows all the symptoms. Understand the diagnosis well, and properly take down the next steps. Also, carefully discuss the follow-up or plan the next visit.
- After the visit: Feel free to call the doctor even after the visit if you have questions. These questions may be about the prescription that you’ve been given. The doctor might be able to help over the phone or schedule another visit.
Hematology is the science that comprises diagnosis and treatment of any diseases of blood and blood-making organs. A disease of the blood can affect any part of the body, from the head to the toe. For diagnosis of any problem related to blood, hematologist will suggest blood tests to understand the source of the problem and recommend an appropriate treatment. You might also come across the term board-certified hematologists who have extra expertise in the field owing to additional education they’ve received.