Ask the Experts

What is hematology?

Hematology is the science or study of blood, blood-forming organs and blood diseases. The medical aspect of hematology is concerned with the treatment of blood disorders and malignancies, including types of hemophilia, leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia. Hematology is a branch of internal medicine that deals with the physiology, pathology, etiology, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of blood-related disorders. Hematologists also focus on lymphatic organs and bone marrow and may diagnose blood count irregularities or platelet irregularities. They are able to treat organs that are fed by blood cells, including the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus and lymphoid tissue.

Hematology science involves the five types of white blood cells — neutrophils, monocytes, lymphocytes, eosinophils and basophils. Red blood cells are also known as erythrocytes.

Plasma is the liquid component of blood that carries blood cells through the body. Nutrients, waste, antibodies, proteins, and hormones are also transported in plasma.

Areas of study

Four major areas of study within hematology include hemoglobinopathy, hematological malignancies, anemia and coagulopathy. Hemoglobinopathy is the study of abnormality in the globin chains of hemoglobin molecules. In addition to sickle cell anemia, thalassemia (also known as erythropoiesis) is part of hemoglobinopathy. The area of hematological malignancies is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes. Myeloma is another major type hematological malignancy, along with leukemia and lymphoma. Anemia is concerned with the loss of hemoglobin from the blood, which can result in organs not receiving enough oxygen. Excessive bleeding and blood clotting are the primary concerns of coagulopathy. Fibrins are proteins that help form blood clots, and platelets (also known as thrombocytes), which are small cell fragments involved in the clotting process.

Other disorders which may be treated by a hematologist include arterial thromboembolism, deep-vein thrombosis and neutropenia.

The body produces new blood cells via hematopoiesis.

Connection to other branches of medicine

Hematology is often linked with oncology, which is the branch of medicine that deals with cancer. One treatment of cancer is chemotherapy, which is defined as the destruction of cancer cells.

A medical technologist performs the laboratory work associated with hematology.

Anatomy of blood

Blood is made up of several parts, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Red blood cells, which make up about 45% of whole blood, carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissue. They also carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be exhaled. They are disc-shaped, and produced in the bone marrow.

White blood cells, which are also made in the marrow, help fight infection. Together with platelets, they make up less than 1% of whole blood.

Platelets are small, colorless fragments that stick together and interact with clotting proteins to stop or prevent bleeding. They are also produced in bone marrow.

Plasma is the fluid part of the blood. Composed of 92% water, it also contains vital proteins, mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones and vitamins.

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