Updated: 12/27/2016

RBC Indices

Review Topic
  • Red blood cell (RBC) indices
    • describes RBC size and shape, as well as hemoglobin content
    • plays an important role in determining the cause of anemia
  • RBC indices include
    • mean corpuscular volume (MCV)
    • mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH)
    • mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC)
Mean Corpuscular Volume 

  • Reflects average RBC volume
  • Anemia classification
    • microcytic (< 80 fL)
    • normocytic (80 μm - 100 fL)
    • macrocytic (> 100 fL)
Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin
  • Reflects average hemoglobin content
    • low hemoglobin content results in a low MCH
      • hypochromia on peripheral blood smear
      • e.g., iron deficiency anemia and thalassemias
Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration (MCHC)
  • Reflects average hemoglobin concentration of RBCs
    • elevated MCHC
      • RBC agglutination
      • spherocytosis
      • sickle cell anemia
      • hemoglobin C disease
    • decreased MCHC
      • in conditions of decreased hemoglobin production
Red Cell Distribution Width
  • Reflects variation in size of RBCs
    • elevated RDW implies a high degree of RBC size variation
      • iron deficiency anemia
      • myelodysplastic syndromes
      • hemoglobinopathies
    • low RDW implies a more homogenous RBC size

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