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Red blood cell indices are test values that indicate cell size, shape and hemoglobin content. this is important in determining the degree of anemia as well as the type of anemia that exists. Anemia can be caused by factors such as bleeding disorders, poor dieting, and cancers of the hematopoietic system.
The 7 indices that you should be conversant with include:
1. Hematocrit (HCT)
This is the ratio of red blood cells to plasma, that is, the proportion of blood that is made up of red blood cells. A low score on the range scale may be a sign that one has too little iron, the mineral that helps produce red blood cells, theus fewer cells. A high score could mean dehydration or another condition. The normal ranges are as follows: Male: 38.3-48.6% and Female: 35.5-44.9%
2. Hemoglobin (Hb)
This is the oxygen-carrying protein in erythrocytes. In case there is too little hemoglobin in the blood, the area of central pallor is usually enlarged in the red blood cells. The normal ranges in most populations are as follows: Male: 14-17.5g/dl and Female: 11.6-15 g/dl. these ranges are however subject to many factors of variations such as geographical locations and age.
3. Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV)
This is the average size of the red blood cells. If they’re bigger than normal, the Mean Cell Volume goes up hence the presence of macrocytic cells in the peripheral blood film. That could happen due to insufficient vitamin B12 or folate levels. On the other hand, Smaller red cells are indicative of thalassemia which shows microcytic cells in peripheral blood films. A normal-range mean cell volume is 76 to 96 femtolitres and the peripheral blood film shows normocytic cells.
4. Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH)
This indicates the average hemoglobin amount per red cell in picograms. It is calculated by multiplying the cell hemoglobin by 10 the deviding the result by hematocrit level. The normal range is 26 – 34 pg.
5. Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC)
This measures the concentration of hemoglobin in a certain amount of blood. It is calculated by dividing the Hgb by Hct. Cells with normal MCHC levels are normochromic. Those with decreased levels have hypochromic cells while increased levels show hyperchromic cells.
6. Red cell distribution width (RDW)
It measures the variability in the size of the red cells. The standard size is about 6-8 μm in diameter. Certain disorders can cause a significant variation in cell size, a condition termed as anisocytosis. Higher RDW values indicate greater in size. The reference ranges are usually 11.5-14.5%.
7. Reticulocyte count
The test is usually done separately since it uses different stains. It indicates the estimated number of immature red cells in the blood..