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Had a TLIF in lower back, had blood removed. Low RBC?

my husband had a TLIF in his low back in 2011, since surgery his red blood cell count has been high. He has to have a unit of blood removed every month due to the thick blood. Yesterday he went to have the unit removed, and his blood was so, very thick that it took over an hour to remove the unit. His blood was like a string when they removed the needle..Is there anything he can do to lower his red blood cell count? any suggestions would be greatly appreciated..Concerned wife in Az.
Asked On : Sun, 14 Apr 2013
Answers:  2 Views:  25
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Pathologist and Microbiologist 's  Response
Hello and welcome to HCM,

The symptoms that you have mentioned appear to be of Polycythemia vera.
In this condition the RBC count increases due to increased production of a molecule called erythropoeitin.
This is myeloproliferative disorder in which RBCs are produced in excess in the bone marrow.
The symptoms are of increased viscosity of blood i.e. the problem of thick blood which you have mentioned.

The management of this disease is:
1. Regular removal of a specific volume of blood called phlebotomy.
2. Certain drugs are available which inhibit the production of unlimited mass of RBCs in the bone marrow.

However, you have to consult a hematologist for further work up.

Thanks and take care.
Dr Shailja P Wahal
Answered: Sun, 14 Apr 2013
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Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Prasad Akole's  Response
Dear friend, welcome and thanks for entrusting your query here at Healthcaremagic!
I am Dr. Prasad Akole (Critical Care Expert- and am glad to address to your query here.

If you have a very high red cell count and thick blood (polycythemia), there is a risk of excessive clotting in the vessels and complications.

Hence regular blood letting from veins is done.

If on evaluation, the doctors feel that it is resistant to phlebotomies (blood letting) and cell count is still higher, other medical therapies can be considered to decrease blood cells. Medications such as hydroxyurea or agrylin to suppress production of red blood cells may be used. Interferon-alpha may be used. Sometimes aspirin low dose may be advised to prevent clotting.
Please discuss with your treating team if it is polycythemia and these options are possible.

I hope to have answered your query satisfactorily. I would be glad to answer any further queries. Take care and please keep me informed of your progress at
Good Luck!
Answered: Mon, 15 Apr 2013
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