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A 68-year-old male is admitted to the hospital for emphysema. He is hypoxic and his lab tests reveal low oxygen levels. His hematocrit is 65%. The physician has told him that he has a type of polycythemia in which he has an increased number of erythrocytes circulating in his bloodstream. The patient tells the nurse that he does not understand what that means. How would the nurse explain this in terms the patient could understand?
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"Because you have decreased oxygen levels in your blood, your body has responded by producing more red blood cells, which we call polycythemia, the term for excessive RBC production. The low oxygen level causes your kidneys to make a hormone ( erythropoietin) to stimulate the production of more red blood cells."
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