Among patients with certain blood diseases, applying as a preventative measure may reduce the risk of iron overload, according to new research.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine described the case of a particular 16-year-old with sickle cell anemia, which is an inherited condition in which the red blood cells are rigid and sickle-shaped.
Researchers reported that the patient received frequent blood transfusions due to abnormal blood flow in a particular artery in his brain. The transfusions were intended to prevent stroke but entailed a negative side-effect the risk of iron overload.
The study’s authors said that a number of blood disorders can result in iron overload from excess transfusions. These include thalassemia, sickle cell disease, myelodysplastic syndrome and aplastic anemia.
Since the body has no natural method for excreting excess iron, repeated transfusions can load the blood with high levels of the mineral, resulting in liver and endocrine problems. Chronic iron overload often results in serious and even fatal heart deterioration, the team added.
They found that by applying , the patient’s health outcome improved. Chelation involves the application of chemicals that bind to heavy metals in the blood, allowing the kidneys to then filter them away.
Researchers concluded that iron-chelation may be an effective prophylactic treatment for individuals who receive repeated transfusions for blood disorders.
An estimated 4.5 million Americans require blood transfusions every year, according to the American Blood Centers.