RBC indices


Red blood cell (RBC) indices are part of the complete blood count (CBC) test. They are used to help diagnose the cause of anemia, a condition in which there are too few red blood cells.

The indices include:

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

Hemoglobin transports oxygen. RBCs carry hemoglobin and oxygen to our body's cells. The RBC indices test measures how well the RBCs do this. The results are used to diagnose different types of anemia.

Normal Results

These test results are in the normal range:

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or may test different samples. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

These test results indicate the type of anemia:


Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another, and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

Review Date: 3/13/2016
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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