Two hours after the blood was drawn, it might've been mistaken for milk. A cloudy white substance filled more than half of each of four test tubes lined up side by side. In one, only a small smudge of red could be seen. The 39-year-old diabetes patient who'd visited a hospital in Cologne, Germany, complaining of nausea, vomiting, and headaches soon learned the reason, per Newsweek: way, way too much fat in his blood. Triglyceride, a type of fat, is normal in blood, at around 150 milligrams per deciliter. Above 500 milligrams per deciliter is considered "very high," reports Live Science. The patient, who lost consciousness and required a breathing tube, had more than 14,000 mg/dL, enough that a machine used to filter fat out of blood clogged—twice. As a last resort, doctors turned to bloodletting.
They'd determined the patient suffered from diabetic ketoacidosis, meaning his body broke down fat much too quickly, according to the report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. They also credited high triglyceride levels to insulin resistance, obesity, diet, and the fact that the man wasn't taking his medications regularly. To get rid of the fat, doctors replaced a manually drawn sample of blood with red blood cells and plasma, then replaced a second sample with fluids. Within days, the fat had depleted enough to allow the blood to pass through the filtering machine. The patient's breathing tube was removed five days later. "I applaud the doctors for thinking out of the box," a doctor not involved in the case tells Live Science, noting bloodletting appears to be "a new treatment option for extremely high triglycerides when standard hospital therapy … fails." (Beware of young blood transfusions.)