Chromium 51 Test for Blood Volume

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Gretchen12, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. Gretchen12

    Gretchen12 New Member

    Has anyone had this test for checking blood volume?

    I'm having it done next week. Dr. Bell seemed to think it was the best for detecting low blood volume in CFS--I took his study to my cardiologist and he set me up for the test.

    I will keep you all informed as to the results.

  2. u34rb

    u34rb New Member

    What will this test cost you?

    What would the likely treatment be if you are found to have a low blood volume?
  3. elliespad

    elliespad Member

    Notes on Dr. David Bell's talk on 25 August 1998, given at the invitation
    of AYME (Association for Youth with ME)

    Dr. Bell has been interested in ME in children since 1985 since an
    outbreak in his practice in Lyndonville, New York.

    He feels the name is controversial. The term CFS is inadequate. CFS
    has a similar definition to ME - in that it requires substantial
    neurological deficits, not just fatigue.

    The illness occurs as both epidemics and sporadic cases. There has been
    speculation from the clusters of cases in epidemics that the illness
    might be contagious. He feels that this might only be the case at the
    beginning of the illness, but not after two to three months.

    The only thing required for a diagnosis is a physical examination. It
    should not be a diagnosis made by exclusion, as there is no other
    illness which is similar. Those doctors who are not familiar with the
    illness do tend to exclude everything else. However it is important to
    run certain tests like thyroid tests. The diagnosis should be made
    quite quickly as the illness is so unique. ME has a prolonged chronic
    course, with the symptoms the same month after month, year after year
    even after normal test results have been obtained.

    3/4 of sufferers have an acute onset and 1/4 a gradual onset. 60% of
    sufferers are female and 40% male. 30 outbreaks have been recorded and
    in all of them 70% of sufferers were adults and 30% were children. Not
    all the outbreaks were assumed to be the same thing, but the same
    figures kept coming up in each community.

    There are immunological abnormalities in the illness, but it's not
    possible to make a diagnosis by them. The 1994 CDC criteria is used for
    diagnosis in USA. This has allowed a body of research to take place.

    In a list of symptoms of sufferers, fatigue is mentioned 100% of the
    time, but when asked what the worst symptom is, 49% stated fatigue, with
    the rest mentioning headaches, cognitive dysfunction etc. The
    underlying fatigue and the pattern of symptoms taking place, are the
    most important thing. The symptoms are virtually identical in children
    and adults. However, below the age of 10 there is a different symptom
    pattern, and the child can't verbalise their symptoms such as cognitive
    dysfunction and fatigue. They have always felt like that and it is not
    unusual to them.


    A poor word to describe the feeling. Fatigue doesn't really occur in
    ME. It is a symptom which implies recovery. After resting from
    exertion, you feel recovered. This doesn't happen in ME. The fatigue
    is tiredness which also isn't a good word. The closest word to describe
    it is asthenia.

    The fatigue is:
    + new onset,
    + relapse after exertion,
    + limits activity,
    + fluctuations in intensity during the day.

    There is often an activity window, a time during the day when the
    patient feels more able to do things. Sufferers usually incorporate
    this into their day. However activity levels tend to be more constant
    when studied day to day.

    Neurological Symptoms

    He is reluctant to make a diagnosis of ME without these symptoms.
    Cognitive dysfunction means:
    + brain fog and mental exhaustion,
    + poor short-term memory and concentration,
    + poor balance, dizziness, pins and needles.

    Almost all patients have it. Many are afraid of these symptoms because
    they are likened to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. However,
    the symptoms are a function of the fatigue and not due to organic damage
    to memory.

    In healthy people, tasks are done unconsciously - they don't need to
    think about it. When you are tired, you can't recall them. The same
    happens when you keep a healthy person up all night, but they recover.
    However, when you get better, your memory also gets better. When the
    memory starts getting better, you are on the right path and are going to

    Pain (virtually everywhere)

    + Variable intensity,
    + Severity parallels fatigue,
    + relapsing/remitting,
    + headache, joint and muscles, sore throat, lymph nodes, abdominal
    + laterality - worse on the left than right, or vice versa.

    Pain is from the CNS, from the thalamus - the pain recognising centre,
    and not from the particular organ which hurts.

    Sensitivity (relatively minor)

    + Light, noise, odour sensitivity,
    + alcohol intolerance,
    + MCS,
    + drug sensitivity,
    + temperature sensitivity,
    + food sensitivity.

    Drug sensitivities follow a discrete pattern.
    Could make a diagnosis from spending 6 hours in a mall - with all the
    light, noise, echoes and confusion. After 10 minutes a sufferer would
    be ready to explode. Call it the Mall Test!
    Pattern of Symptoms

    Disagree with diagnosis by exclusion. Plot the symptoms on a radial
    graph (as in his book). Give the patient a questionnaire and ask them
    to rate symptoms from zero (mild) to ten (severe). Plot the points on a
    graph and then calculate the area. Both depression and school phobia
    cover very small areas. Mild ME covers a larger area and severe ME
    covers a very large area. This is VERY different from depression. No
    other illness show this type of pattern.

    "All these atypical something's make a typical something." - The

    It is easy to diagnose as it is a unique illness. This is shown by the
    ability of support groups to recognise the illness very quickly when
    talking to another sufferer.

    The medical profession have not accepted it as a unique clinical


    There are probably 50 good theories on the cause of ME, each of which is
    very interesting. And there are also lots of bad ones.

    Different theories: Persistent infection leading to immunological
    abnormalities (induced by infectious agent), neurocirculatory (which
    doesn't imply a cause, merely a mechanism causing symptoms to persist
    although the cause disappears), asthenia, abnormal adrenal function,
    psychiatric (but NOT depression).

    Psychiatrists don't know what to do with sufferers. It's a difficult
    illness for them to treat. No-one has yet recovered through the use of
    psychotropic drugs and counseling.

    Need to take despair seriously - to help learn coping mechanisms, which
    in itself can be life saving.

    Post-polio syndrome is indistinguishable from ME/CFS. The pattern of
    symptoms of the two illnesses are quite similar. 91% of polio survivors
    + moderate to severe fatigue (primary cause of disability);
    + significant cognitive dysfunction;
    + poor concentration and memory etc.
    + Polio virus lesions have been found at autopsy.

    NMH - Peter Rowe. Children with CFS took the tilt table test and there
    were a large number of abnormal tests where the children passed out.
    There is an abnormality in the ability of the body to compensate in a
    change of position. The brain blood flow decreases. After taking
    Florinef many felt better, but it has not turned out as well as hoped.
    1/3 done well. The young do better than the old and the sickest don't
    respond. It expands the circulating blood volume - and maintains the
    flow to the brain. He linked ME and NMH.

    Dr. David Streeton. Didn't realise he was working on ME/CFS patients -
    they didn't have fatigue. He joined up with Dr. Bell and decided their
    patients had the same illness. They had 19 sufferers who met the
    criteria and measured their blood volume. This was done by drawing 10cc
    of blood and labeling the red blood cells with chromium 51. The blood
    was then injected back into the body, where it distributed equally round
    the body. Another 10cc of blood was drawn and the chromium 51 level was
    measured. From this it's possible to work out the amount of blood in
    the body. This is a very reliable test.

    Blood pressure is normal. Peripheral hematocrits are normal.
    Proportion of red blood cells to plasma. Even if blood volume is low,
    hematocrits are normal. In one person, they had half the normal red
    blood cell volume.

    Plasma volume - one had a very high level, but it is really changeable,
    and they had drunk a lot before the test. When the test was repeated,
    the level was low. Not an accurate marker.

    If you combine the two (red blood cell volume and plasma volume), you
    get the total circulating blood volume. Virtually everyone tested was
    below normal range. Some were dramatically abnormal, even half the
    normal level.

    If a healthy person had an accident and lost 25% of their blood - would
    cause shock. It's not possible to survive with 40% below normal blood
    volume (in healthy people). This is a reliable tests - it's been done
    for years.

    Showed a SPECT scan of a 14 year old girl who'd had ME for 5 years.
    The scan shows the distribution of blood flow in the brain.
    It's possible to compare the blood flow on one side of the brain to the
    other. There was a decreased flow in one area, which was strikingly
    abnormal compared to the other side. This is typical in ME.

    There HAS to be a fairly dramatic abnormality behind this illness. If
    an athlete becomes housebound - a subtle change can't cause this. But
    we can't find what is it - which is a problem. In 1985 scientists said
    that EBV being the cause of ME was absurd. They didn't believe that it
    could cause this degree of disability. Coxsackie and enteroviruses
    aren't dramatic results from biopsies so are unlikely candidates.

    Symptoms are volume dependent. [slide]

    Trigger factor
    Damage to Autonomic Nervous System
    Low RBC mass

    This pattern was what was thought to be the process, but isn't correct.

    Trigger factor
    Low RBC mass ANS damage Abnormal Immunology

    Orthostatic Hypotension - blood pools in the legs, a lower blood flow in
    the brain. Feel faint but recover. Hypovolemic - decreased blood
    volume but the same distribution round the body (feel faint). Nurse
    noticed this - wouldn't draw blood because patient felt faint/fainted
    when blood was drawn - made them lie down.

    ME, however, has low blood volume and blood trapping in legs.

    They're working on a test. Patient lies down and take BP and pulse for
    10 minutes. Patient then stands quietly next to a wall. Take the pulse
    every few minutes for 30 minutes plus, and watch the BP. Patients have
    normal resting BP and pulse pressure. As soon as they stand up, within
    one minute, pulse pressure narrows significantly as time goes by.

    Circulating blood is dependent on pulse pressure. It's the circulating
    force getting the blood through the body. Essentially the blood flow
    stops (when it drops). Patient has to stand still in test, and not
    fidget, which most sufferers do automatically, which pumps the blood
    through the muscles. Most patients felt nauseous, pale, headache,
    crying when the test was stopped. Usually ask the patient to say when
    they can't do it anymore.

    Pulse pressure = 8ml of mercury. Almost no blood to brain. Most
    sufferers continue to stand even though they are in severe distress.
    They think they are not doing anything so why do they feel so bad?

    A rise in pulse - compensatory mechanism - not all sufferers have it .
    Have POTS (postural orthostatic syndrome. Narrowing pulse pressure
    and BP so low (50% normal blood volume) - no wonder she can't function
    standing up. An orthostatic illness.

    We put out adrenaline to help circulate the blood - but this doesn't
    work when we stand up.

    One patient had hypertension, had a high BP response to low blood
    volume. Gave a diuretic to get rid of some fluid. Gave him 2 units of
    saline - acts as a volume expander - BP fell. Felt good for next 24-48

    If there's a decreased blood volume, BP changes - put out adrenaline -
    blood flow decreased to brain. Decrease circulating blood volume -
    traps it in legs.

    Principles of Treatment

    Need to have an ongoing diagnosis to be sure that you're not missing
    something, as sufferers do get other illnesses whilst they have ME, e.g.
    low thyroid might come on - symptoms are very similar.

    The role of the physician in any illness.
    + symptom reduction
    + educational support
    + treat activity limitation

    Physical Support

    + Encourage common sense in using vitamins etc.
    + understand exercise values vs. drawbacks
    + encourage autonomy - important for young people. Develop autonomy to
    think/act for themselves and become who they want to be
    + encourage discrimination - what they won't/don't want to do. Get
    involved in their own treatment
    + understand reasons to treat - practical issues, look for worst and
    most disabling symptoms to treat, e.g. headaches and depression
    + symptom vs. activity limitation

    Emotional Support

    + clarify diagnostic issues
    + identify coping method - experiment with different coping methods to
    find the best
    + identify emotional needs
    + provide ongoing support
    + provide medication to treat emotional difficulties (rare)

    Educational Support

    + assess activity potential
    + assess cognitive difficulties
    + determine "activity window"
    + tailor needs to services available
    + aggressively pursue services needed

    He encourages his patients to take risks. Sufferers maybe worried that
    they will get worse. But you should push yourself as much as feel you
    need to. There are times when it may be worth getting sick - e.g. going
    to a wedding - have to learn to discriminate. Learn what is worth the
    risk. You won't become worse if you push yourself within limits. Use
    common sense.

    Exercise - a wonderful treatment if you can do it. When you are getting
    better, that's when you can exercise. You should exercise when you're
    getting better. But it's important to remember that when you're very
    sick you can't get through it by exercising. He has never seen someone
    who got themselves better because of exercise.

    Questions & Answers

    Q. Could this test be used as a diagnostic tool?
    A. He hopes it will be. Although it will take quite a long time before
    it's determined. If a patient gives a list of complaints, a doctor
    should be able to make a diagnosis on standard tests. The decrease in
    pressures in the test is unique. When a healthy person loses blood in a
    car accident, they have the same decrease in pressure as seen here.
    Blood volume is not by itself an absolute diagnosis, but is useful. Now
    wants to evaluate the responses of under 18's and compare them with
    normal teenagers.

    Q. Are recurring mouth ulcers and inflammation of the oesophagus
    symptoms of ME?
    A. Mouth ulcers are very common in ME. 40% of the initial group studied
    had them, but never really cultured much from them. Immunological
    abnormality - decreased function of natural killer cells. These would
    normally suppress the herpes group virus, which maybe why ME sufferers
    have more mouth ulcers. In American studies of EBV, there was an
    increase in replication of EBV in ME sufferers. Cytomegalovirus and
    chickenpox too. Cher - had chickenpox five times - only possible in ME,
    because NK cells are down.

    Q. My daughter has lowish BP lying down which drops when she stands up.
    The doctor says this is because she's not exercising.
    A. Doctors explain it away through inactivity, which will cause
    physiological changes and decreases in circulating blood volume by 10%.
    However, there are larger values than this in ME. Orthostatic
    inactivity - can't walk, but up and about the house all day resting on
    and off. Total inactivity causes BP to drop but not by the same amount.

    Q. My daughter is in hospital with severe ME. They sit her up in bed
    for 10 minutes and she has fits and dystonic movements of her muscles.
    Should they continue with the sitting up/activity?
    A. No, in his opinion don't continue it. You want to increase activity
    as much as possible, but if sitting up and no blood going to brain and
    is causing dystonia - not good.
    First you need to increase the circulating blood volume to normal,
    then decrease peripheral resistance, and increase circulation to the
    Had good results from saline infusion - which could be a good
    diagnostic test. Give one or two units of normal saline by vein -
    expands circulating blood volume by one or two litres. Patient feels
    temporarily very well. The sicker you are, the shorter the time it has
    an effect. There is very little risk from normal saline infusions.

    Q. There is a similarity in the symptoms of GWS and ME. Could there be
    a common denominator?
    A. He hasn't seen any GWS patients and has no personal experience. The
    two illnesses do seem very similar and the pattern of symptoms seem
    similar too. CFS maybe due to injury to the brain and ANS dysfunction.
    There are many ways GWS can take place - became dehydrated, carrying
    heavy packs, not getting enough fluid. Quite likely they're related.
    Interesting minor symptom of CFS - those who have a very clear memory
    of getting sick say they urinated a lot in the first few days of being
    ill. Anti-diuretic hormone being turned off. Shows in ME; don't know
    if it shows in GWS.

    Q. Are there any steps an individual can take to increase their own
    blood volume without medical intervention?
    A. The Hopkins group has been vocal on this, and had some criticisms.
    They say you should eat salt to hold on to more water. If you have low
    blood volume and your BP is on the low side, they you should be safe to
    eat lots of salt. Some patients crave salt. Also try to drink lots of
    fluid. Some patients feel better from this, but usually only noticed in
    mild stages. Increase the plasma volume particularly.
    Astronauts have to helped out of the capsule - get orthostatic symptoms.

    Q. Alcohol can act as a diuretic - could this affect blood volume?
    A. Alcohol is very rarely enjoyed by ME sufferers. If you can drink -
    only mild ME. Alcohol dilutes the blood vessels and decreases the blood
    flow to the brain. It turns off adrenal hormone more than before. Next
    day - brain is shrunk and have lost circulating blood volume. To avoid
    a hangover drink three or four glasses of water before bed. Exacerbates

    Q. Can drugs be used to increase low blood volume?
    A. Yes and no. Don't know any real answers. Using a number of
    different agencies - still preliminary. Theoretically.
    Alcohol and drug sensitivity - the drugs which make you feel ill are
    almost always vasodilators - widens blood vessels.

    Q. Could starving the body of oxygen provide more red blood cells and
    therefore more energy?
    A. High altitude sickness is similar to ME. Don't know. There are ways
    of doing it with medicines - safer.

    Q. Have problems drawing blood.
    A. Everyone has problems. Really hard to start IV with ME sufferers.
    The body is using the blood in central organs, and peripheral organs are
    poorly perfused. Difficult to get good veins.

    Q. Daughter diagnosed with renal failure. Given cortisol. Side
    effects. Have you found this?
    A. Half his patients have defect in adrenals. Adrenal failure causes
    fatigue. Addison's disease might be confused with ME. Cortisol and
    algesterone (adrenal hormone) (Florinef) - need to replace both.
    Deficiencies cause severe fatigue.

    Q. Daughter has developed hyperthyroidism. Will it regulate itself?
    A. Don't know. Wouldn't use such a patient in research protocols. Have
    two similar patients - don't know if they have ME as well. If thyroid is
    regulated perfectly, after that symptoms could mean ME.