Go With The Phle[botomy]

By Jul DeGeus

What is Phlebotomy?

Phlebotomy is “the drawing of blood (as by venipuncture ) for transfusion, apheresis, diagnostic testing, or experimental procedures.” (1) What was once used as the go-to cure for almost any illness, phlebotomy’s most common purpose today is to help doctors diagnose patients through testing. Now a days, the only time it is used as a primary care treatment is limited to rare diseases like hemochromatosis, a metabolism disorder, or polycythemia vera, the increase in blood volume.

When did Phlebotomy begin?

Phlebotomy, or “bloodletting,” has been around for quite a while.  Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations are some examples of ancient cultures that preformed phlebotomy. It was thought that most medical illnesses could be cured through bloodletting. However, the practice of drawing blood in previous eras was based less on scientific reasoning, and more so on superstitious belief.  A majority of bloodlettings occurred to rid people of their “evil vices” or let out the “demons” that resided inside of them. Phlebotomy eventually made its way over to the United States in the 18th century with the pilgrims. (2)

Then Vs. Now

Bloodletting was an extremely dangerous practice that often wound up killing the victim before the disease the phlebotomy was “treating” could. In 1163, the church banned any of the clergymen from preforming the procedure and passed the job onto barbers. It only made sense, since the profession required the artisan to be skilled with a razor. A “normal” blood draining session would stop when the patient informed the vampire that they felt woozy, and would produce one to four pints of blood. On average, the human body has ten pints of blood and loosing this much blood in such a short amount of time, would ultimately prove fatal for the patient. (2)

Today, phlebotomy technicians are required to go through schooling to learn about sterilization, technique and the proper volume of blood to sample for testing or donating. So no more bloodlettings of four pints or till the patient passes out, the limit is capped to approximately one pint every 56-112 days. (3) Thanks to the wondrous advances in science, technology and medicine, we are no longer relying on barbers to draw blood. That is, of course, aside from the occasional nick while shaving.


  1. Phlebotomy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phlebotomy
  2. Phlebotomy. (2015, July 30). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/Pa-St/Phlebotomy.html
  3. The Red Cross. (n.d.). Blood Facts and Statistics. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-facts-and-statistics

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