St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    RBC count

    Erythrocyte count; Red blood cell count

    An RBC count is a blood test that tells how many red blood cells (RBCs) you have.

    RBCs contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. How much oxygen your body tissues get depends on how many RBCs you have and how well they work.

    How the Test is Performed

    A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

    How to Prepare for the Test

    No special preparation is necessary for adults.

    How the Test Will Feel

    When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

    Why the Test is Performed

    The RBC count is almost always part of the CBC (complete blood count) test.

    The test can help diagnose anemia and other conditions affecting red blood cells.

    Additional conditions under which an RBC count may be performed:

    • Alport syndrome
    • Drug-induced immune hemolytic anemia
    • Hemolytic anemia due to G6PD deficiency
    • Hereditary anemias, such as thalassemia
    • Idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia
    • Immune hemolytic anemia
    • Macroglobulinemia of Waldenstrom
    • Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
    • Primary myelofibrosis

    Normal Results

    The general the range is as follows:

    • Male: 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microliter (cells/mcL)
    • Female: 4.2 to 5.4 million cells/mcL

    Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

    The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    Higher-than-normal numbers of RBCs may be due to:

    • Cigarette smoking
    • Congenital heart disease
    • Cor pulmonale
    • Dehydration (such as from severe diarrhea)
    • Kidney tumor (renal cell carcinoma)
    • Low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia)
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Polycythemia vera

    Your RBC count will increase for several weeks when you move to a higher altitude.

    Drugs that can increase the RBC count include:

    • Gentamicin
    • Methyldopa

    Lower-than-normal numbers of RBCs may be due to:

    • Anemia
    • Bone marrow failure (for example, from radiation, toxins, or tumor)
    • Erythropoietin deficiency (secondary to kidney disease)
    • Hemolysis (RBC destruction) due to transfusion, blood vessel injury, or other cause
    • Hemorrhage (bleeding)
    • Leukemia
    • Malnutrition
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Nutritional deficiencies of:
      • Iron
      • Copper
      • Folate
      • Vitamin B-12
      • Vitamin B-6
    • Overhydration
    • Pregnancy

    Drugs that can decrease the RBC count include:

    • Chemotherapy drugs
    • Chloramphenicol
    • Hydantoins
    • Quinidine

    Risks

    There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

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

    • Excessive bleeding
    • Fainting or feeling light-headed
    • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
    • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

    References

    Bunn HF. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 161.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Blood test

      illustration

    • Formed elements of blood

      illustration

    • High blood pressure test...

      illustration

      • Blood test

        illustration

      • Formed elements of blood

        illustration

      • High blood pressure test...

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for RBC count

          Review Date: 2/8/2012

          Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile