The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Single-drop blood tests

There is some respite in sight for patients suffering from leukaemia and other haematological disorders in the city. The pain of endless needle pricks during blood test and therapy could be eased with the introduction of the state-of-the art Automated Cell Counter machine at a city healthcare stop.

The hi-tech machine, procured from a Japanese firm by the state government-patronised Subodh Mitra Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, will help doctors analyse minute anomalies in the blood with no more than a drop drawn with a small finger prick at the hospital.

All leukaemia and thalassaemia patients have to undergo frequent blood tests — often every alternate day — to check the white blood corpuscles count and detect residual infections in the blood stream. During the full therapy period, blood samples from the veins near the elbow, wrist and ankle joints are often drawn no less than 200-250 times.

“At times, the situation gets so bad that doctors have a tough time finding the vein for blood tests or transfusion. So, we decided to bring in this machine (KX-21 version) for patients who can now undergo painless blood tests,” says Ashis Mukherjee, medical director of the Salt Lake hospital. The Subodh Mitra Cancer Hospital and Research Centre counts health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya among its chief patrons.

The treatment of leukaemia patients is divided into two phases. During the first phase, known as the “induction” period, a patient undergoes chemotherapy for four months.

During the second phase, known as the “consolidated” period, spread over two months, small microscopic germs are eliminated from the blood.

A patient has to undergo periodic blood tests to check the white blood corpuscles count, which, if it crosses 2,000, calls for chemotherapy. If the count drops to 500, the patient requires intravenous antibiotic treatment for a condition known as leukopnea. “To find out the effect of treatment, we have to conduct blood tests every day for these patients,” adds Mukherjee.

Similarly, for all thalassaemia patients, doctors have to undergo regular check-ups to ensure that the haemoglobin count does not drop below eight, signalling a need for immediate blood transfusion. On an average, thalassaemia patients have to undergo transfusion every two to three weeks.

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