Some children with thalassemia need red blood cells from a healthy donor (a blood transfusion). Giving your child healthy red blood cells helps them get the oxygen their body needs.
How often your child might need a transfusion depends on their disease.
- Some children only need a transfusion from time to time, such as when they have a major illness or infection.
- Children with severe forms of beta thalassemia (also called thalassemia major) must have blood transfusions every 3 to 4 weeks throughout their life, unless they are cured with a stem cell transplant.
Your child receives the blood through a vein in their arm. They can get transfusions without having to spend a night in the hospital. Our outpatient infusion unit is staffed by expert nurses and is open on weekends.
Chelation therapy for iron overload
Transfused blood contains iron. After a child gets many transfusions, the iron builds up in some of their organs. This is called iron overload. The iron buildup can harm the heart, liver and glands that make hormones.
Your doctor will check your child’s iron level regularly. If it starts to get too high, your child will need a treatment called chelation therapy to remove the extra iron. They will need to take medicine that binds to iron. This allows the extra iron to leave the body in the pee (urine) or bowel movement (stool).
The medicine may be taken by mouth or injected under the skin.