Blood Disorders

At HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital we offer specialist treatment for blood disorders, known as red cell disorders.

We work with expert consultant haematologists who specialise in the treatment and management of these disorders. As these conditions often require thorough assessments and treatment plans we have created dedicated Packages covering diagnostic and assessment tests, as well as associated treatments.

If you would like to find out more about our assessment and treatment packages or would like more information about our services please contact us.

 

Sickle Cell Disease+

Sickle cell disease represents a group of conditions that affect the oxygen carrying haemoglobin molecule in red blood cells.

Sickle cell disease affects the way that your red cells behave, these cells do not live as long as normal cells and can be come unusually (sickle) shaped causing them to be sticky. This in turn causes the other blood cells and the blood vessel wall to behave abnormally resulting in “crises” or other complications. Sickle cell disease is an inherited, lifelong condition, caused by faulty genes. Treatment and management of the condition can be life-saving and can also be used to help to control symptoms and any related health conditions.

Treatment

If you have sickle cell disease you will need specialist care throughout your life both to prevent and manage acute problems known as crises but also to prevent and limit the long term complications of the disorder. There are a number of treatments to help manage symptoms of this condition and decrease the likelihood of life threatening complications. It is important that your care includes overall health support as sickle cell disease can affect any part of the body.

Treatment available at HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital

  • Lifestyle management to reduce painful sickle crisis episodes
  • Patient tailored care in special situations e.g. pregnancy or if an operation is needed
  • Annual review and general health review
  • Treatment of sickle cell crises
  • Blood transfusions (taking blood from a donor and transfusing this to patients)
    • Simple top up transfusions e.g. to correct anaemia
    • Automated red cell exchange (apheresis) to remove sickle cells and replace with donor blood
  • Disease modifying therapy such as hydroxyurea
  • Iron overload management and monitoring with MRI scanning
  • Preconception counselling for families, partner testing
  • Antenatal diagnosis for at risk couples
  • Stem cell or bone marrow transplants

Thalassaemia+

The thalassaemias are a group of  conditions that  affect the ability to produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a substance in the blood used to carry oxygen around your body. This can make you very weak and anaemic (pale, tired, short of breath.) The body will try and compensate by making more blood cells causing the typical bone changes and large liver and spleen and this is known as extramedullary haematopoiesis. The principles of treatment are to support the anaemia and prevent the complications of extramedullary haematopoiesis whilst limiting iron loading, promoting growth and bone health and protecting fertility.

Thalassaemias can be broadly divided into thalassaemia trait (where there are health genes also); non transfusion dependent thalassaemia (previously known as thalassaemia intermedia) – where the person has significant problems with their genes and haemoglobin production but not enough to warrant regular transfusion; and transfusion dependent thalassaemia – where the person has reached the threshold to start regular transfusion therapy.

They are caused by defects in alpha or beta globin genes, or sometimes both. There is a wide variety of genes that can cause thalassaemia.

Treatment

If you have transfusion dependent or non transfusion dependent thalassaemia you will need specialist care throughout your life. There are a number of treatments to help manage symptoms of this condition. It is important that your care includes overall health support as thalassaemia can cause associated health conditions.

Treatment available at HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital

  • Lifestyle management to keep you as healthy as possible
  • Annual review and general health review
  • Blood transfusions (taking blood from a donor and transfusing this to patients)
  • Management of growth and endocrine complications
  • Iron overload management and monitoring with MRI scanning.
  • Chelation therapy to reduce excess iron that can build up in the body from regular blood transfusions
  • Preconception counselling for families, partner testing
  • Antenatal diagnosis for at risk couples.
  • Stem cell or bone marrow transplants

Preconception and antenatal Counselling+

Sickle cell disease and thalassaemia are recessive blood disorders. If both parents are a ‘carrier’, then there is a  25% (1:4) chance of each of their children being affected by these disorders. If one parent has the disorder and the other is a carrier the risk for each pregnancy of having an affected child is 50%.

Support and prenatal/antenatal options

It is possible to detect if you are a ‘carrier’ of either of these disorders pre pregnancy. We work with specialist facilities to advise on the risk to pregnancy and offer pre-implementation genetic diagnosis. Pre-implementation is a way of testing at the very earliest stage of a pregnancy in a laboratory before a healthy embryo is inserted artificially. If you have a child who is affected by one of these conditions, then it is possible for this embryo to be matched to your child, stem cells from the umbilical cord can then be collected at birth and stored for a future stem cell transplant.

If you would prefer to have your pregnancy tested during you antenatal period this is possible too, from just over 10 weeks of pregnancy.

HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital works with expert consultants across a network of facilities to ensure that you are guided and supported through these decisions.

Iron Deficiency Anaemia+

Iron deficiency is a common health problem, a low amount of iron in the body leads to a reduced red blood cell level. Red blood cells carry and store oxygen around the body, when you do not have enough red blood cells your organs and body tissues will not get the right levels of oxygen.

There are several different types of anaemia but iron deficiency anaemia is the most common.

Treatments

If you have iron deficiency anaemia you are likely to be given a course of iron tablets. These tablets are usually effective in increasing iron levels, however depending on the severity of the anaemia and other health factors there are several other treatment options.

Treatment available at HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital

  • Lifestyle management including dietary advice on how to increase iron levels
  • Medication to boost iron levels
  • Intravenous iron (using specially manufactured iron delivered through a vein)
  • Blood transfusions (taking blood from a donor and transfusing this to patients)

Iron Overload (Haemochromatosis)+

Iron overload is caused by having too much iron in your body. This is usually caused by an inherited condition that causes you to absorb and store too much iron from your diet – known as genetic haemochromatosis, or it may occur as a result of frequent blood transfusions.

Iron overload is a serious condition, when your body stores too much iron this has a toxic effect on other areas of your body such as your liver and heart , other vital organs, joints and bone marrow.

Treatment available at HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital

  • Diagnosis of genetic haemochromatosis or carrier state
  • Venesection or chelation therapy to reduce excess iron
  • Ongoing monitoring of condition

Enzyme & Membrane Disorders+

Red cell disorders are generally caused by abnormalities in one of the elements of your red blood cells, the membrane (e.g. hereditary spherocytosis), the enzymes (eg G6PD deficiency) or the haemoglobin (e.g. sickle cell disease or thalassaemia). They can also be caused by an antibody which attacks your red blood cells, this is known as immune haemolytic anaemia, this is not an inherited condition and often develops later in life.

Enzyme and membrane disorders occur when the coating (membrane) or chemicals (enzymes) of red blood cells is abnormal, causing these blood cells to become fragile and ineffective.

There are many disorders that are either inherited or can develop at different stages. These disorders will often cause you to have a low blood count (anaemia) or to develop a yellow tinge to your eyes or skin (jaundice). These disorders may occur in episodes (come and go) or may develop into a more chronic disorder (ongoing), they also tend to vary in severity, some may be very mild while others may be more severe.

Treatment available at HCA Healthcare UK at University College Hospital

  • Diagnostic tests of membrane effects and enzymes
  • Lifestyle management
  • Treatment plan, which may include medication and blood transfusions, splenectomy
  • Management of symptoms and effects of treatment