RBC indices

Definition

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

RBCs transport hemoglobin which, in turn, transports oxygen. The amount of oxygen tissues receive depends on the amount and function of RBCs and hemoglobin.

The MCV reflects the size of red blood cells. The MCH and MCHC reflect the hemoglobin content of red blood cells. These RBC measures are used to diagnose types of anemia.

Anemias are defined based on cell size (MCV) and amount of Hgb (MCH).

Normal Results

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 doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

This test is used to diagnose the cause of anemia. The following are the types of anemia and their causes:

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient 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: 2/24/2014
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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