Blood So Thick, it Changed to the Colour of Milk

Image credit: Copyright © 2019 American College of Physicians.

An extreme case of hypertriglyceridemia.

In this rare medical case, a patient’s blood became so thick that it changed to the colour of milk. The condition became so life-threatening for the man that doctors had to manually draw out the blood to save his life. The 39-year-old German man presented to the emergency with complaints of nausea, vomiting, headache, malaise and deteriorating alertness. He had visited a doctor earlier because of unexplained weight loss and headaches that had progressively worsened. He was diagnosed with hypertriglyceridemia.

Diagnosis and treatment

Based on his presentation, doctors diagnosed the patient with an extreme case of hypertriglyceridemia. A disease in which there are extremely high levels of fatty triglyceride molecules in the blood. Generally the first choice of treatment for this condition is plasmapheresis. In this technique the machine extracts the blood plasma from the patient’s body, removing the excess triglycerides. The machine then returns the clean and filtered blood to the patient’s body. However, doctors could not rely on this traditional method of treatment in this case. The blood was so thick that it clogged the plasmapheresis machine’s filter with thick and fatty blood. Not once, but twice.

Therefore, the case called for a different approach. Doctors resorted to a long-abandoned treatment. The ancient technique that ancient pioneered healers thousands of years ago requires withdrawing blood from the body. The doctors withdrew 2 litres of blood, allowing the triglyceride levels to reduce. Replacing the blood with fluids each time. Fortunately, the remedy worked well for the levels to drop low enough for the machine to take over and not get clogged.

By the 5th day the patient was free of any neurological symptoms.

According to the researchers knowledge, this case was a first of using an ancient approach for treatment.

“If plasmapheresis can not be done due to extreme hyperviscosity, our experience demonstrates that conventional bloodletting with replacement [fluids] may be an effective alternative,” said the researchers.

What caused this to happen?

Researchers say that this man was experiencing these symptoms because of hyperviscosity syndrome. In this the blood becomes abnormally thick that in severe cases it can also trigger seizures and coma. This can be related to a number of factors including obesity, diet and insulin resistance. Additionally, the patient was inconsistent with his diabetes medication which may have led to ketoacidosis. As a result, developing into a life-threatening scenario.


Bloodletting to Treat Severe Hypertriglyceridemia

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Dr. Aiman Shahab is a dentist with a bachelor’s degree from Dow University of Health Sciences. She is an experienced freelance writer with a demonstrated history of working in the health industry. Skilled in general dentistry, she is currently working as an associate dentist at a private dental clinic in Karachi, freelance content writer and as a part time science instructor with Little Medical School. She has also been an ambassador for PDC in the past from the year 2016 – 2018, and her responsibilities included acting as a representative and volunteer for PDC with an intention to make the dental community of Pakistan more connected and to work for benefiting the underprivileged. When she’s not working, you’ll either find her reading or aimlessly walking around for the sake of exploring. Her future plans include getting a master’s degree in maxillofacial and oral surgery, settled in a metropolitan city of North America.


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