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What Is Clinical Hematology?

A clinical hematologist.
Clinical hematology may match donors and recipients to reduce the risk of a bad transfusion.
One empty and one full pint-sized blood bag.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Clinical hematology is the application of research on blood and the associated organ systems to clinical treatment of patients with blood and organ disorders. This includes everything from managing patients with genetic anemias to the treatment of patients with acquired blood-borne diseases like some forms of hepatitis. Clinical hematologists typically pursue training in internal medicine with an additional fellowship in hematology to prepare for practice.

Practitioners in the field of clinical hematology can work in a number of different areas. One important application for hematology research is in blood, organ, and tissue transplant. Transplant science relies heavily on an understanding of antibodies and antigens, and requires careful matching between donors and recipients to reduce the risk of a bad transfusion or transplant reaction. A clinical hematologist can be a consultant on a transplant case, and is involved in the typing process to connect eligible donors with recipient matches.

Many large hospitals and labs also have a clinical hematology facility for the analysis of blood samples. Hematologists can perform a variety of tests to look for evidence of disease and provide basic information about a patient’s blood chemistry. This can include rapid turnaround testing as well as more detailed analysis. Since blood can provide a great deal of information about a patient’s condition, such labs can be extremely busy with many different kinds of patient samples. These can include samples from facilities with limited equipment that cannot perform a full analysis on a complex or questionable sample.

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This field also involves the accurate diagnosis and treatment of blood-related disorders like anemias, certain kinds of cancers, and clotting disorders. Clinical hematology practitioners can evaluate patients, develop treatment plans, and provide education for patients and their families. They can also treat blood-borne illnesses and may be involved in the development of protocols to limit the spread of disease or address emerging epidemics that appear to be carried through the blood.

Areas of specialty within clinical hematology include transplant medicine, pediatrics, and pathology. Researchers and practitioners can work together on activities like clinical trials, diagnosis of newly emerging diseases, and more effective patient management. Numerous facilities offer training and fellowships, some of which can be very competitive at world-renowned facilities with leaders in the field among their faculty. Professionals in this field may belong to organizations that promote the practice of clinical hematology and provide resources like peer-reviewed journals, conferences, and other events for education and networking.

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