Glossary

A List of Commonly Used Terms in Blood Banking

HTLV-associated Myelopathy

“Commonly abbreviated “HAM”, and also known previously as “Tropical Spastic Paraparesis” (TSP), this neurological disorder is a rare complication of an infection with human T-cell lymphotropic viruses (HTLV-I and rarely HTLV-II). The disease itself is one that primarily involves the legs, bladder, and bowel (the upper extremities are generally spared), as a result of a slowly developing degeneration of the lateral and posterior columns of the spinal cord. Spastic movements of the legs are common, and the patient gradually loses muscle strength and sensation in the legs, as well as sphincter control.

All of this sounds frightening, certainly, and blood donors who have been notified that they had a positive screening test for HTLV are often quite alarmed. However, the good news is that this disorder is really uncommon even among those who are truly infected with HTLV-I (which the majority of these donors that test positive on the screening test likely are not). Aside from not being able to donate blood, the vast majority of donors who find themselves in this situation will never have a problem with HAM/TSP. If you are a blood donor who finds yourself in this situation, however, it is best to get advice and evaluation from a qualified health care professional.

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