The treatment of hemochromatosis by repeated phlebotomy has everything to commend it. It is specific, harmless, and inexpensive. It is logical: the removal from the body of a rapidly regenerating, iron-rich tissue, blood, drains iron from the ironsodden organs where the unmanageable excess has been stored away. There is no excretory channel for unneeded iron; the patient with hemochromatosis who absorbs too much is stuck with it. Logical as phlebotomy therapy may be, we took a long time to put two and two together, try it, and learn how to use it. Since the early 18th century we have known that the blood iron resides in hemoglobin.1 Hemochromatosis was discovered in 1865, and it was soon perceived that the blood pigment (hemochrome) deposited in the injured organs is iron.2 Yet, not until 1942, was phlebotomy therapy proposed by Balfour et al,3 specifically by Paul Hahn, PhD, who
Crosby WH. Hemochromatosis: Treatment to Alleviate Injury. Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(10):1910–1911. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360220054009
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