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Blood Transfusion and Conservation - Erythropoietin

What is Erythropoietin?
Erythropoietin is a protein that controls the production of red blood cells.

Why give an Erythropoietin?
Erythropoietin injections are used to increase the production of red blood cells. It my be given to adults with kidney disease, HIV-infection and are receiving treatment, cancer patients and patients undergoing elective surgery.

Erythropoietin may help reduce the need for transfusion of allogeneic blood (blood from another person). You may still need to have a transfusion using donor blood if you lose a lot of blood during or after surgery.

Before Taking Erythropoietin:

  • Tell your doctor about any medical problems, allergies or medications you are taking (prescription, non-prescription and herbal).
  • You should not use Erythropoietin if you are allergic to any of the product ingredients.
  • Let your doctor know if you have any history of high blood pressure, seizures, blood clots, liver disease, porphyria or gout.
  • Let your doctor know if you are, might be or are trying to get pregnant. And if you are breastfeeding.


What are the side effects of Erythropoietin?
The most common side effects are:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, drowsiness, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and weakness.
  • Redness, burning and pain at the site of the injection.
  • Nausea, vomitting, diarrhea.
  • The following side effects are more often associated with kidney disease:
    • increased blood pressure
    • clotting of hemodialysis equipment
    • pure red cell aplasia (a poorly formed blood cell that does not work like a normal red blood cell) or Aplastic Anemia
    • changes in blood tests
    • seizures


A more serious side effect of Erythropoietin may be high blood pressure. This can happen if red blood cells are produced too rapidly. Your doctor may need to reduce or withhold your dose of Erythropoietin and initiate or increase blood pressure medication.

If you develop the following signs of allergy: difficulty breathing; itching; rash; or swelling of the throat, face, eyelids, mouth, or tongues; contact your doctor and seek immediate medical attention.