BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Transfusion 'should produce quick results'
The Queen Mother is to be given a blood transfusion
The Queen Mother is to be given a blood transfusion
With the Queen Mother set to undergo a blood transfusion to treat her anaemia, BBC News Online talks to experts about the care she will receive.

Dr Brian Colvin is a consultant haematologist at Barts and the Royal London Hospital and Professor Cameron Swift is president of the British Geriatrics Society.

The symptoms the Queen Mother has been suffering, which had been thought to be due to heat exhaustion were probably also due to anaemia, according to Professor Swift.

He told BBC News Online her condition warranted immediate investigation: "Anaemia in the elderly is something we should always take seriously, and get to the bottom of sooner rather than later."

And he said her age should be no barrier to successful treatment.

"Her age is only one factor. Clearly her medical team will be taking it into account when they discuss further investigations.

Anaemia in the elderly is something we should always take seriously,

Professor Cameron Swift

Professor Swift added: "The decision to transfuse the Queen Mother will have been made because the blood count is sufficiently low to warrant that - you would not normally transfuse someone whose blood count was just a little bit lower than normal."

According to Dr Brian Colvin, the Queen Mother's condition should improve very quickly after the procedure because the red blood cells she is lacking will have been replaced.

A slight temperature is the only likely side effect, he said.

He said a blood transfusion was a routine and safe procedure, even in the very elderly. "I wouldn't have any anxiety."

The transfusion is not likely to last for more than 24 - 48 hours.

Iron deficiency

Once the Queen Mother has had her blood transfusion, doctors will start to treat the underlying condition.

Professor Swift said the fact that the Queen Mother is being transfused strongly suggested that her anaemia was due to a deficiency in iron.

He said: "If it was a deficiency of vitamin B12, you wouldn't normally transfuse someone, you would give them a course of vitamin injections, and would see improvements in a couple of weeks.

"In that situation, a transfusion could make matters worse."

Pain relieving drugs for arthritis can cause bleeding in the stomach wall, leading to anaemia in some elderly people, though there are no indications that the Queen Mother is on these drugs.

Stomach ulcers can also be a cause, but again, there has been no information that the Queen Mother is suffering from one.

There is nothing in her Queen Mother's health history to suggest why she might have developed her anaemia.

In November 2000, she fractured her collar bone after a fall, and in January 1999 she had her nose cauterised after series of nose bleeds.

In the late 1990s she had both hips replaced.

Underlying causes

Dr Colvin said once the cause has been identified, long term treatment can be planned.

"If it's a vitamin deficiency, that's quite a routine procedure, and doctors would just give tablets or injections.

"If the bone marrow's not very well and someone's elderly, usually the treatment would be a blood transfusion."

He said someone of that age would be very unlikely to have a bone marrow transplant.

Talking PointFORUM
Queen Mother
Consultant David Black quizzed about her health
See also:

01 Aug 01 | Medical notes
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories