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What Is Immunohematology?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Immunohematology is a branch of medicine‭ ‬that primarily deals with‭ ‬the‭ ‬processes and complications surrounding blood transfusions.‭ ‬Immunohematologists study how red blood cells react to foreign blood cells.‭ ‬This allows them to develop safer and more reliable methodologies for blood transfusions and also gives them insight into several blood-related diseases‭ ‬that involve the interaction between antibodies and antigens.

The study of immunohematology requires knowledge of some different medical disciplines.‭ ‬An understanding of immunology is important because the immunohematologist will be dealing with antibodies.‭ ‬Knowledge of genetics is required to aid in typing different blood antigens.‭ ‬Serology must be studied because of its relevance to working with blood.‭ ‬Combined,‭ ‬these give a practitioner the ability to perform several key functions involved in blood transfusions.

A trained immunohematologist performs a variety of tasks, including preparing blood and its components for storage or for transfusion.‭ ‬Testing newborn babies for immediate blood disorders is another responsibility.‭ ‬Most often an immunohematologist performs cross-matching to be sure a‭ ‬transfusion will not cause unnecessary complications.‭ ‬Detecting and diagnosing different blood disorders in patients also falls under the description of what an immunohematologist does.‭

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The study of immunohematology is a complex and necessary field of specialization because of how the body reacts under certain conditions.‭ ‬When the red blood cells in a body encounter foreign red blood cells‭ ‬that have‭ ‬certain‭ ‬antigens on their surface,‭ ‬the cells will create antibodies.‭ ‬These antibodies will destroy the‭ ‬foreign cells.‭ ‬Immunohematology seeks to learn as much as possible about the hundreds of different antigens that exist so there will be a way to transfuse blood without causing antibodies to be produced.

There also are blood diseases that can cause serious harm.‭ ‬An immunohematologist studies these diseases so he or she can accurately‭ ‬diagnose them and, hopefully, mitigate some of the damage being done.‭ ‬One disease that occurs in pregnant women causes red‭ ‬blood cells to attack the body‭’‬s own cells,‭ ‬releasing hemoglobin that could lead to renal failure.‭ ‬These are the types of diseases with which immunohematology deals.

Immunohematology is a practice closely tied to the medical technology‭ ‬available‭ ‬within a geographic area.‭ ‬Not all areas of the world are able to give blood transfusions or have access to the‭ ‬machinery necessary to identify the different antigen groups.‭ Other areas give transfusions infrequently and do not keep the proper equipment on site.‭ ‬In these cases,‭ ‬the effectiveness of an immunohematologist is limited.

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