ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It is commonly called a "sed rate."
It is a test that indirectly measures how much inflammation is in the body.
A blood sample is needed. Most of the time, blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The blood sample is sent to a lab.
The test measures how fast red blood cells (called erythrocytes) fall to the bottom of a tall, thin tube.
There are no special steps needed to prepare for this test.
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.
Reasons why a "sed rate" may be done include:
This test may also be used to monitor whether an illness is responding to treatment.
This test can be used to monitor inflammatory diseases or cancer. It is not used to diagnose a specific disorder.
However, the test is useful for detecting and monitoring:
For adults (Westergren method):
For children (Westergren method):
Note: mm/hr = millimeters per hour
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
An abnormal ESR may help with a diagnosis, but it does not prove that you have a certain condition. Other tests are almost always needed.
An increased ESR rate may be due to:
The immune system helps protect the body against harmful substances. An autoimmune disorder is when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. ESR is often higher than normal in people with an autoimmune disorder.
Common autoimmune disorders include:
Very high ESR levels occur with less common autoimmune disorders, including:
An increased ESR rate may be due to some infections, including:
Lower-than-normal levels occur with:
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.