Acute Posthemorrhagic Anemia: Definition & Effects

Instructor: Sarah Phenix
In this lesson, we will briefly explore anemia and then focus on a specific type, acute posthemorrhagic anemia. We will learn how one might come to suffer from this as well as the effects and treatments of this disorder.

Understanding Acute Posthemorrhagic Anemia

Anemia is a condition with many faces. It can be the result of a heritable trait, like sickle-cell anemia (genetically passed from parent to child), the result of a poor diet resulting in vitamin and nutrient deficiencies (such as in some cases of iron-deficiency anemia), or it could be the result of a traumatic injury.

That's right, trauma can cause anemia, too. If you have ever known anyone in a car crash or someone who has been in a position to lose a lot of blood (such as during or after a surgical procedure), posthemorrhagic anemia could've been a possibility for them. So, what exactly is acute posthemorrhagic anemia? Well, before we dive into that, let's take a moment to revisit what it actually means to be anemic.

Simply put, anemia is a condition where the body doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells, called erythrocytes. Now, erythrocytes ('erythro' meaning red and 'cytes' meaning cells) have a functional iron-carrying protein called hemoglobin that binds to oxygen molecules and distributes them to your tissues and organs. In the case of anemia, hemoglobin is either deficient or there are too few red blood cells, causing your body to be oxygen deprived. Okay, so, what is acute posthemorrhagic anemia? Well, it's anemia resulting from too few red blood cells after major blood loss, or 'post' (after) 'hemorrhage' (blood loss).

Effects of Posthemorrhagic Anemia

Unfortunately, the effects of posthemorrhagic anemia aren't great. Because it's the result of a greatly reduced red blood cell count, some of its symptoms might not surprise you. These can include fatigue, dizziness, impaired cognitive abilities, paleness, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms, such as rapid heart rate and lactic acidosis, may come as more of a surprise.

Now, the rapid heart rate is the result of your heart responding to the drastically low blood volume. This can lead to chest pains and an irregular heartbeat. Lactic acidosis is the result of a buildup of lactic acid (a metabolic waste) in the body caused by the low cellular oxygen levels experienced from anemia. This can lead to weakness and nausea.

This may sound random, but, did you know that the reddish-brown color of stool is due to your body disposing of old red blood cells? What does this have to do with anemia, you ask? Well, anemic patients may also notice a color change in their stool as, consequently, their low red blood cell count means that they will have fewer old red blood cells to be disposed of than a healthy individual.

Symptoms of Anemia

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