Red Cell Indices
Using the results of the red blood cell (RBC) count, hematocrit, and total hemoglobin tests, red cell indices (erythrocyte indices) provide important information about the size, hemoglobin concentration, and hemoglobin weight of an average RBC.
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The indices tested include mean corpuscular volume (MCV), mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC).
MCV, the ratio of hematocrit (packed cell volume) to the RBC count, expresses the average size of the erythrocytes and indicates whether they are undersized (microcytic), oversized (macrocytic), or normal (normocytic). MCH, the hemoglobin-RBC ratio, gives the weight of hemoglobin in an average red cell. MCHC, the ratio of hemoglobin weight to hematocrit, defines the concentration of hemoglobin in 100 ml of packed RBCs. It helps to distinguish normally colored (normochromic) RBCs from paler (hypochromic) RBCs.
The range of normal red cell indices is as follows:
MCV = Mean corpuscular volume
MCH = Mean corpuscular hemoglobin
MCHC = Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration
Low MCV and MCHC indicate microcytic, hypochromic anemias caused by iron deficiency anemia, pyridoxineresponsive anemia, or thalassemia. A high MCV suggests macrocytic anemias caused by megaloblastic anemias, due to folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency, inherited disorders of deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis, or reticulocytosis. Because MCV reflects the average volume of many cells, a value within the normal range can encompass RBCs of varying size, from microcytic to macrocytic.
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