Therapeutic phlebotomy is the removal of blood from your body to treat a medical condition.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure may be done to treat:

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are mild. Potential problems include:

  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Soreness, bleeding, swelling, or bruising at the needle insertion site—hematoma
  • Infection

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Prior to the procedure, you may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests

You may be asked about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Any medications, herbs, or supplements you may be taking
  • Your history of bleeding or blood clotting problems

Questions you should ask:

  • Whether you need to fast before your therapeutic phlebotomy
  • Whether you should have someone drive you home after the procedure

You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.

To get ready for your procedure:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled up above the elbow


Anesthesia is not needed for this procedure.

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to sit. An area inside your elbow will be cleaned with an antiseptic wipe. A large band will be tied around your arm. The needle will then be inserted into a vein. The band on your arm will be removed. A tube will collect the blood from the needle. After all the blood is collected, the needle will be removed. Some gauze will be placed over the site to help stop bleeding. You may also be given a bandage to place over the site. The process takes about 5-10 minutes.

How Long Will It Take?

10-15 minutes

Will It Hurt?

This procedure is not painful, but you may feel some discomfort when the needle is inserted.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the procedure, you will be given a snack and something to drink.

The staff may ask you to stay seated for 10-15 minutes. If you are lightheaded, you may need to stay seated longer. You will be able to leave when you feel better.

Staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves

At Home

You will be asked to monitor the puncture site for bleeding or excessive bruising.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Persistent bleeding or discharge
  • Pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

Iron Disorders Institute


Health Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Phlebotomy. Iron Disorders Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2018.

Therapeutic phlebotomy. The Blood Connection website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2018.

Therapeutic phlebotomy. Oklahoma Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD  Last Updated: 3/24/2014