Blood Transfusions for Myelodysplastic Syndromes

NYU Langone doctors may use blood transfusions to help relieve symptoms in people who have myelodysplastic syndromes characterized by low red blood cell or platelet levels.

Transfusions of red blood cells can help manage the fatigue and weakness associated with anemia. Transfusions of platelets may be used to manage bleeding of the gums or bruising.

In people with myelodysplastic syndromes that do not respond to medications, transfusions may be needed to help increase red blood cell or platelet levels. They may also be used in people who are receiving medications that may have temporarily reduced the amount of these blood cells.

Transfusions are given as an intravenous (IV) infusion that may take several hours. Your doctor determines how often you need transfusions based on your symptoms and ongoing monitoring of red blood cell and platelet levels.

Receiving a transfusion is typically a safe procedure. However, repeated transfusions of red blood cells can cause allergic reactions or a buildup of iron in the body, which can damage the liver, heart, or pancreas.

To manage high iron levels, doctors can prescribe chelating agents, which help the body get rid of extra iron through the urine or stool. These agents are prescribed as a daily pill that you take until iron levels decrease.

NYU Langone specialists can provide psychological support, supportive care, also known as palliative care, and integrative health therapies to help you cope with any effects of ongoing blood transfusions.