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A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the following:
The CBC test also provides information about the following measurements:
The platelet count is also usually included in the CBC.
Complete blood count
Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.
Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
There is no special preparation needed.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, though most people feel only a prick or a stinging sensation. Afterward there may be some throbbing or bruising.
The CBC test may be performed under many different conditions and to assess many different symptoms or diseases. The results can reflect problems with fluid volume (such as dehydration) or loss of blood.
The test can reveal problems with RBC production and destruction, or help diagnose infection, allergies, and problems with blood clotting.
MCV, MCH, and MCHC values reflect the size and hemoglobin concentration of individual cells, and are useful in diagnosing different types of anemia.
(cells/mcL = cells per microliter; gm/dL = grams per deciliter; pg/cell = picograms per cell)
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
High numbers of RBCs or a high hematocrit may be due to:
Low numbers of RBCs or low hematocrit indicates anemia, which can result from:
A lower than normal white blood cell count is called leukopenia. A decreased WBC count may be due to:
High numbers of WBCs is called leukocytosis. It can result from:
Low hemoglobin values may indicate:
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:
RBCs transport hemoglobin which, in turn, carries oxygen. The amount of oxygen received by body tissues depends on the amount and function of RBCs and hemoglobin.
WBCs are mediators of inflammation and the immune response. There are various types of WBCs that normally appear in the blood:
Newland J. The peripheral blood smear. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 161.
Zuckerman K. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 162.