Definition and Overview
Patients who have blood-related conditions and have gone through an initial consultation are typically required to make a follow-up with a hematologist, a medical specialist who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders. The primary goals are to monitor the progress of treatment and assess or prevent the development of complications.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A hematology follow-up is scheduled:
If the patient has been diagnosed with a blood-related disorder during the first visit. The follow-up may then focus on initiating the treatment.
If the patient had to undergo more tests after his initial consultation, the hematologist will call him in for a follow-up to discuss the results of the tests and, possibly, a diagnosis.
If a patient is undergoing treatment for a blood disorder and the hematologist would like to monitor the progress of treatment. In such cases, the patient may need to come in for follow-up checkups at different stages during the process.
Follow-ups are also important for patients who undergo major surgeries or other procedures, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the main treatment procedures used for patients suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma, the three main types of blood cancers. Through the follow-up sessions, the hematologist can evaluate the results of each stage of the treatment, and make prompt adjustments as needed.
Another type of hematology follow- up is the long-term care for patients who have recovered but need continuous monitoring. This is also because some of the treatments used to treat blood disorders carry a minimal risk of long-term health repercussions. Ongoing care will allow doctors to address these problems and also to detect early signs of a relapse so that pre-emptive action may be taken.
Once a patient is diagnosed with a blood-related disorder, hematology follow-ups will make up a major part of his medical care plan.
How the Procedure Works
Hematology follow-ups go differently depending on their pre-set goals. If the doctor schedules one to discuss the results of diagnostic tests and possible treatment options, the entire visit may last for just 20 to 30 minutes and will not involve any further testing. The patient will then be sent home to consider his different options as far as treatment is concerned.
If a patient is on medication, the doctor may schedule checkups around one or two weeks after the medication is started. This way, the immediate results of the drugs may be observed, and side effects may be addressed promptly.
If the patient is undergoing therapy, he will be asked to go to the clinic for a checkup at certain intervals to make sure each session of the treatment is producing the expected results. The visits typically begin with an assessment of the patient’s condition in comparison with his previous state of health to detect any improvements or other changes. The doctor will also ask about any old and new symptoms that the patient may be experiencing.
For long-term follow-ups, the appointments may keep on going for up to 10 years, especially if major procedures, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, are involved.
Possible Risks and Complications
The different types of treatments used for blood-related disorders, such as bleeding and blood clotting diseases, come with certain risks. With proper follow-ups, these risks can be prevented while the patient seeks treatment for his illness.
The following are the most common treatment options for blood conditions and their corresponding side effects:
Iron supplementation – Iron-deficiency anemia and other blood diseases caused by a low level of red blood cells may be treated with a prescription for iron supplements, which are known to cause constipation and may lead to an iron overdose, which in turn causes diarrhea, nausea and sharp stomach cramps. Thus, iron should only be supplemented at the right level to prevent some side effects, and its use should be supervised by a medical professional.
Blood transfusions – Blood transfusions have to be closely monitored, as some people may develop allergic reactions to the new blood.
Factor replacement therapy – Factor replacement therapy places the patient at risk of inhibitors, which can render the clotting factors ineffective. The patient can also acquire a viral infection from the plasma concentrates although this is quite rare.
Frozen plasma transfusions – This can cause a number of serious side effects if not administered properly. These include fever, hives, itching and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
Surgery – The common risks of undergoing surgery, such as bleeding and infection, also apply for patients who undergo surgery treatment for blood disorders.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy – Both of these treatment options can cause immediate reactions or delayed side effects, so it is extremely important for patients to go to all follow-ups, even after the last session of the treatment. These side effects include pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and an increased susceptibility to infections.
American Society of Hematology