All Medical Procedures

If you are planning to donate blood and bone marrow, you've agreed to allow doctors to draw blood stem cells from your blood or bone marrow for transplantation. Blood stem cells are the cells that make all of the body's blood cells. They form and mature in the bone marrow, and are then released into the bloodstream. Although they're called "stem cells," these cells aren't the same as the embryonic stem cells studied in therapeutic cloning and other types of research.

In the past, surgery to draw marrow from the bone was the only way to collect blood stem cells. Today, however, it's more common to collect blood stem cells directly from the blood. This is called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation.

Blood stem cells can also be collected from umbilical cord blood at birth. However, only a small amount of blood can be retrieved from the umbilical cord, so this type of transplant is generally reserved for children and small adults.

Blood donation is a voluntary procedure. You agree to have blood drawn so that it can be given to someone who needs a blood transfusion. Millions of people need blood transfusions each year. Some may need blood during surgery. Others depend on it after an accident or because they have a disease that requires blood components. Blood donation makes all of this possible.

There are several types of blood donation:

  • Whole blood. This is the most common type of blood donation, during which approximately a pint of whole blood is donated. The blood is then separated into its components — red cells, plasma, platelets.
  • Platelets. This type of donation uses a process called apheresis. During apheresis, the donor is hooked up to a machine that collects the platelets and some of the plasma, and then returns the rest of the blood to the donor.
  • Plasma. Plasma may be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation, or it may be collected without collecting platelets during an apheresis donation.
  • Double red cells. Double red cell donation is also done using apheresis. In this case, only the red cells are collected.

A blood pressure test measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. You might have a blood pressure test as a part of routine doctor's appointment or as a screening for high blood pressure (hypertension). Many people, such as those with high blood pressure, do their own blood pressure tests at home so that they can better track their health.

You may have frequent blood pressure tests if you've been diagnosed with prehypertension, high blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension).

In a blood transfusion, donated blood is added to your own blood. A blood transfusion may also be done to supplement various components of your blood with donated blood products. In rare cases, a blood transfusion is done with blood that you've donated ahead of time before you undergo surgery.

During a typical blood transfusion, certain parts of blood are delivered through an intravenous (IV) line that's placed in one of the veins in your arm. A blood transfusion usually takes one to two hours, though in an emergency it can be done much faster.

A blood transfusion boosts blood levels that are low, either because your body isn't making enough or because blood has been lost during surgery, injury or disease.

A common blood test, the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test reveals important information about how well your kidneys and liver are working. A BUN test measures the amount of urea nitrogen that's in your blood.

Here's how your body typically forms and gets rid of urea nitrogen:

  • Your liver produces ammonia — which contains nitrogen — after it breaks down proteins used by your body's cells.
  • The nitrogen combines with other elements, such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, to form urea, which is a chemical waste product.
  • The urea travels from your liver to your kidneys through your bloodstream.
  • Healthy kidneys filter urea and remove other waste products from your blood.
  • The filtered waste products leave your body through urine.

A BUN test can reveal whether your urea nitrogen levels are higher than normal, suggesting that your kidneys or liver may not be working properly.

A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis — a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break.

In the past, osteoporosis could be detected only after you broke a bone. By that time, however, your bones could be quite weak. A bone density test enhances the accuracy of calculating your risk of breaking bones.

A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and forearm.

Bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration are procedures to collect and examine bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside some of your larger bones.

Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration can show whether your bone marrow is healthy and making normal amounts of blood cells. Doctors use these procedures to diagnose and monitor blood and marrow diseases, including some cancers, as well as fevers of unknown origin.

Bone marrow has a fluid portion and a more solid portion. In bone marrow biopsy, your doctor uses a needle to withdraw a sample of the solid portion. In bone marrow aspiration, a needle is used to withdraw a sample of the fluid portion.

Bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration are often done at the same time. Together, these procedures may be called a bone marrow exam.

A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that helps diagnose and track several types of bone disease. Your doctor may order a bone scan if you have unexplained skeletal pain, bone infection or a bone injury that can't be seen on a standard X-ray.

A bone scan is also an important tool for detecting cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from the tumor's original location, such as the breast or prostate.

Botox injections are the best known of a group of medications that use various forms of botulinum toxin to temporarily paralyze muscle activity. This toxin is produced by the microbe that causes botulism, a type of food poisoning.

Noted primarily for the ability to reduce the appearance of some facial wrinkles, Botox injections are also used to treat such problems as repetitive neck spasms (cervical dystonia), excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), overactive bladder and some causes of crossed eyes. Botox injections may also help prevent chronic migraines in some people.

While Botox was the first drug to utilize botulinum toxin, newer products include Dysport, Myobloc and Xeomin. Each product is a little different, particularly when it comes to dosage units, so they aren't interchangeable.

Brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee) is a procedure that involves placing radioactive material inside your body.

Brachytherapy is one type of radiation therapy that's used to treat cancer. Brachytherapy is sometimes called internal radiation.

Brachytherapy allows doctors to deliver higher doses of radiation to more-specific areas of the body, compared with the conventional form of radiation therapy (external beam radiation) that projects radiation from a machine outside of your body.

Brachytherapy may cause fewer side effects than does external beam radiation, and the overall treatment time is usually shorter with brachytherapy.