MEDLINK – Day 5

Medlink Conference – Day 5     Venue: University of Nottingham    


Haematology

I found this lecture very interesting as I have never thought about blood in so much detail ever before. I think it is quite remarkable that each component on the blood has its own properties are they are also all able to cause many different health problems if they aren’t functioning correctly. Diseases linked with the red cells include Anaemia and Sickle Cell Disease. White cells are linked with problems such as Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Aplastic Anaemia. Two diseases involving platelets are ITP in which the body destroys the platelets and Bernard Soulier which is a rare and inherited condition.

I also learnt about some of the different branches within haematology and I was rather amazed by the fact that a component which appears to be quite easily dismissed gains such a huge range of attention:

  • Malignant – blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
  • Transfusion
  • Coagulation – the chemical processes which take place in the proteins in the blood.
  • Haemoglobinopathy – examples include sickle cell disease.
  • General
  • Paediatric
  • Obstetric – go into clinic with pregnant women.

I learnt that donor blood Is first separated into red cells, platelets and white cells which are all used for transfusion. I found it quite interesting to learn that plasma can also be used as a treatment. I also learnt about which donors which blood type can accept which type of blood due to the antigens on the surface of the red cells. However, blood group O can donate to anybody as they do not have any antigens on the surface of their red cells.

Working with the blood is a very particular career path for a doctor and I learnt about the specificity of how they must be stored. Platelets can only be stored for maximum five days and have to be stored at room temperature. This means haematologists must be very careful about the risk of infection. You don’t have to worry about this with red cells as they are stored at 4 degrees. Learning this has allowed me to reflect on the significance of doctors always being alert and following the procedures properly. Simply transfusing somebody with platelets which have been kept for longer than they should have been can have dire consequences. It is also important to know your limits: with the example of the blood, if the correct type of blood isn’t available for a patient you must be able to communicate that to them despite the fact that they may become angry or upset by this news. As a doctor you must always act in the best interests of the patient rather than just  doing what the patient wants you to do. There’s no point providing an blood group A patient with blood group B blood as this will cause them more harm.

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