Therapeutic Phlebotomy

How to Say It: Therr-uh-pew-tik Fluh-bot-uh-me


Therapeutic phlebotomy is the removal of blood from the body to treat a health problem.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure may be done to treat:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Infection

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure


Anesthesia is not needed.

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to sit. An area on your arm will be cleaned with a wipe. A large band will be tied around your arm. The needle will be put in a vein. A tube will collect the blood from the needle. The band on your arm will be taken off. After the blood is collected, the needle will be removed. Gauze will be held on the site to help stop bleeding. You may also be given a bandage.

How Long Will It Take?

10 to 15 minutes

Will It Hurt?

There may be discomfort at the insertion site. This will go away quickly.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after the procedure, the staff will give you a snack and something to drink.

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

At Home

Activities will be limited for the rest of the day. Monitor the puncture site for bleeding or excessive bruising.

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Lasting bleeding or discharge
  • Pain

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


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Iron Disorders Institute


The College of Family Physicians of Canada


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Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 3/23/2021

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