What Do The Results Mean
Your hematocrit test results are reported as a number. That number is the percentage of your blood that’s made of red blood cells. For example, if your hematocrit test result is 42, it means that 42% of your blood is red blood cells and the rest is white blood cells, platelets, and blood plasma.
A hematocrit level that’s lower than normal may be a sign that:
- Your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells . There are many types of anemia that can be caused by different medical conditions.
- Your body is making too many white blood cells, which may be caused by:
- Certain cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or cancers that spread to the bone marrow from other parts of the body
A hematocrit level that’s higher than normal may be a sign that:
- Your body is making too many red blood cells, which may be caused by:
If your results are not in the normal range, it doesn’t always mean that you have a medical condition that needs treatment. Living at high altitudes where there’s less oxygen in the air may cause a high hematocrit. That’s because your body responds to low oxygen levels by making more red blood cells so that you get the oxygen you need.
Pregnancy can cause a low hematocrit. That’s because the body has more fluid than normal during pregnancy, which decreases the percentage that’s made of red blood cells.
What Does The Test Measure
HCT measures the proportion of the blood that is composed of RBC and is expressed as a percentage.
RBCs are critical for the distribution of oxygen to the bodys cells. Once oxygen is used by cells to produce energy, RBCs transport the waste product, carbon dioxide, from the cells back to the lungs.
HCT levels can be affected by an increase or decrease in the number of RBCs and by changes in other components of the blood. Because HCT measures the percentage of RBC in the blood, relative increases or decreases in other blood components, like plasma or WBC, can lead to abnormal HCT results even if the RBC count is normal.
What Complications Can Occur From Low Mchc Levels
The most common complication of living with low MCHC levels is lack of energy and decreased stamina. This can limit your activities.
In severe cases, anemic hypoxia can occur as a result of low MCHC levels. When MCHC levels are very low, your body could struggle to provide enough oxygen to all its tissues.
As a result, these tissues are deprived of oxygen and unable to get rid of carbon dioxide. This can actually become life threatening.
Common symptoms of anemic hypoxia include:
What To Do For Low Hematocrit Levels / How To Increase Hematocrit Levels
People with extremely low red blood cell counts may need to go to the doctor to get intravenous iron or blood transfusions. If theres an underlying health condition thats causing the body to produce less red blood cells, then medication might be needed to help stimulate the production of new red blood cells.
Some lifestyle changes can help increase red blood cell counts. Eating a variety of fresh, healthy foods that contain iron, vitamin B-12, and folic acid can prevent anemia. Taking these nutrients in supplement form can also be beneficial.
The best way to learn more about how to treat low or high hematocrit levels is to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider.
What To Expect During A Hematocrit Test
During a hematocrit test, you can expect to have a sample of blood taken by a phlebotomist or another healthcare professional who can draw blood. Getting blood drawn can be uncomfortable, but most people only feel a light prick when the needle inserts the vein. If you need to have a hematocrit test done and know that you might get lightheaded, you can always ask to lie down while your blood sample is taken.
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Bone Marrow Aspiration And Biopsy
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy provide direct observation and assessment of RBC precursors. The presence of abnormal maturation of blood cells and the amount, distribution, and cellular pattern of iron content can be assessed. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are usually not indicated in the evaluation of anemia and are only done when one of the following conditions is present:
More than one cell lineage abnormality
Suspected primary bone marrow disorder
Cytogenetic and molecular analyses can be done on aspirate material in hematopoietic or other tumors or in suspected congenital lesions of RBC precursors . Flow cytometry can be done in suspected lymphoproliferative or myelodysplastic states to define the immunophenotype. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are not technically difficult and do not pose significant risk of morbidity. These procedures are safe and helpful when hematologic disease is suspected. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are usually can be done as a single procedure. Because biopsy requires adequate bone depth, the sample is usually taken from the posterior iliac crest. If myeloma is suspected or there is severe osteoporosis, an ultrasound-guided biopsy is done because it is the safest to avoid penetrating the pelvis.
White Blood Cells Defending Your Body
WBCs help the body fight illness or infection. As part of the immune system, they recognize and fight things that are foreign to the body. The number of WBCs is lower than the number of RBCs however, the WBCs are larger in size RBCs. There are 5 types of WBCs each type plays a different role in protecting the body from invaders.
What Is An Average Hematocrit Level
35% 50% hematocrit level is considered normal in the case of a healthy adult. In the case of women, a hematocrit level between 36.1% 44.3% is considered normal, and in the case of men, a hematocrit level range between 40.7% 50.3% is considered normal. A hematocrit level between 32% 61% is average .
Hct tests are very reliable and usually pretty accurate for monitoring anemia. These tests aid medical practitioners in diagnosing the proper medical condition and advise the most suitable treatment. Some factors that are responsible for giving wrong and inaccurate hematocrit levels include:
- Blood transfusions that have taken place recently
- Hct levels are usually lower than usual when women are pregnant
- Hct levels are generally higher than normal for people living at a high altitude
- High hct levels are also caused by dehydration
Health practitioners very well know what factors could potentially skew hct test results. If some health conditions affect your hct results, your doctor might ask you to retake the test at a different time.
Heres What You Need To Know
The HCT auto blood test can only be conducted at an approved medical facility. There are no accurate home testing kits that are available for this blood test. The measurement comes not from a total count of red blood cells, but through the use of a centrifuge or calculation of blood cell values.
People with certain medical conditions will naturally have lower HCT auto levels that are detected with this blood test. Someone with an autoimmune disorder, such as celiac disease that is not well managed or rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic infection, or cancer will have test results that may put them in the low results range.Certain people are also at risk for having abnormal HCT auto blood test results. Those with poor nutritional habits, lack access to vitamins or iron, or have recently had a surgery may not have accurate test results. Severe injuries that involve prolonged bleeding may also affect results. If there is a sickle cell disease present, then there will be an ongoing risk of anemia that may need to be managed over the course of a lifetime.
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What This Means To Me And My Doctor
In patients with anemia, hemoglobin levels are low and the patient may be frequently tired and have little energy. This is because there is not enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the stationary tissues thus, there is not enough oxygen available to convert nutrients into energy. The RBC count, hematocrit level, MCV, MCH and MCHC might also be low in patients with anemia.
Low RBC counts, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels can be caused by other things too, such as a lot of bleeding or malnutrition . Kidney disease, liver disease , cancer, and medications used to treat cancer can also cause low levels.
An increased RBC count and increased levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit may be caused by dehydration or by some diseases .
Why Do Doctors Test Hematocrit Levels
There are many conditions that can affect red blood cell production or their life cycle. This can make it difficult for a medical professional to diagnose these conditions. A doctor will use a hematocrit test to confirm whether a persons red blood cell count is affecting a health condition.
Doctors usually test hematocrit levels as part of a complete blood count .
A CBC is composed of a range of tests, and may include:
- red blood cell count
- reticulocyte count
- an analysis of hemoglobin levels
- an analysis of red blood cells, including size and shape
- white blood cell tests
A doctor will also take into consideration a persons sex, race, and age. It is important to note that certain blood-related conditions, such as sickle-cell anemia, affect particular demographic groups at higher rates.
A doctor may request frequent hematocrit tests to monitor the effect of chemotherapy on persons bone marrow.
- irregular heartbeat
- cold hands or feet
These symptoms also indicate anemia, a condition where hemoglobin levels are lower than normal. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.
Mild anemia is treatable, and it is . Severe anemia could signal a more serious underlying health condition that requires more extensive treatment.
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What Does It Mean If Your Hematocrit Is High
A high hematocrit level may be a sign of several conditions, including polycythemia vera. Your healthcare provider is your best resource for information about your test result. Some conditions that may cause high hematocrit levels include:
- Heart disease: Studies show high hematocrit levels increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Dehydration: Dehydration lowers all water content in your body, including plasma in your blood. Lower plasma levels increase the ratio of red blood cells to blood volume. That increases hematocrit levels.
- Scarring or thickening of your lungs: Scarring in your lungs makes it difficult for your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Studies show links between obstructive sleep apnea and high hematocrit levels.
- Smoking: Smoking affects hematocrit levels in two ways. Smoking makes your body produce more erythropoietin, the kidney hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. More red blood cells mean higher hematocrit levels.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide affects your capillaries, decreasing the amount of plasma in your blood and increasing the number of red blood cells. More red blood cells mean higher hematocrit levels.
- Testosterone use: Studies show testosterone use increases red blood cell numbers, which increases hematocrit levels.
Platelet Counts Assessing Your Bodys Ability To Clot Blood
A CBC includes the number of platelets and the mean platelet volume . MPV is a measurement of the average size of the platelets. A higher MPV roughly indicates better platelet function. Some medical conditions are associated with a high MPV and some are associated with a low MPV. Thus, the MPV can sometimes be helpful in telling apart different disorders.
A decreased number of platelets is associated with bleeding. Some causes include certain rare inherited disorders, leukemia, autoimmune disorders and medications. A falsely low platelet count, which is not associated with bleeding, can be caused by a rare error in blood sample collection: instead of staying in a liquid form, the sample clots , thus using up the platelets.
An increased platelet count is less common and is associated with clotting disorders such as thrombocythemia. Platelet counts can also be increased in some cancers and following infections or other medical conditions.
Aspirin can decrease the platelet function, so its important to consult with your doctor when taking large amounts of aspirin or when taking aspirin for an extended period of time. Many over-the-counter medications contain aspirin, which may be listed as acetylsalicylic acid, salicylate, or 2- benzoic acid.
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Symptoms Of Low Hematocrit Levels
Having low hematocrit levels, which is sometimes called anemia, often makes people feel under the weather. If youre having any of the following symptoms, they could mean you have a low red blood cell count:
- Not enough oxygen in the blood
Having abnormally high levels of red blood cells doesnt necessarily mean that you have one of the conditions listed above. High hematocrit levels can mean that you might have a serious health condition like heart disease, but your doctor will run other tests to make sure youre properly diagnosed.
Why Would You Get A Hematocrit Test
A hematocrit test can help your doctor diagnose you with a particular condition, or it can help them determine how well your body is responding to a certain treatment. The test can be ordered for a variety of reasons, but its most often used to test for:
If your doctor orders a complete blood count test, the hematocrit test is included. Other tests in a CBC are a hemoglobin and reticulocyte count. Your doctor will look at your overall blood test results to gain an understanding of your red blood cell count.
First you will receive a blood test. Afterward, it will be sent to a laboratory for evaluation.
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Hematocrit Reference Ranges For Adults
|37% to 47%
An abnormal HCT level can indicate that your blood is either too thin or too thick compared to an average person of a similar population.
An abnormally low level of HCT indicates that your cells may not be getting enough oxygen, a condition known as anemia. Abnormally low HCT may be related to a variety of causes, including:
- Poor nutrition with low intake of iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 or folate
- Bone marrow disorders or cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or other cancers that spread to the marrow
- Destruction of RBCs
- Excessive water in the body
High HCT levels indicate conditions where there is either an overproduction of RBC or an abnormally high concentration of RBCs in your body. Some examples of causes of a high HCT include:
- Certain types of kidney tumors
- Living at high altitudes
- Secondary polycythemia, a rare group of blood disorders caused by heritable changes to genes involved in the production of RBCs causing the body to produce too many RBCs
- Polycythemia vera, a rare blood disease in which the body produces too many RBCs
Although the results are accurate, laboratory parameters and provider reference ranges as well as personal variables may be subject to differences.
Abnormal HCT test results may or may not require additional follow-up testing. HCT is often evaluated alongside other components of a CBC to look for signs of disease or monitor health conditions.
Symptoms That Suggest Cause Of Anemia
Sometimes bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
Laboratory evaluation begins with a complete blood count , including white blood cell and platelet counts, RBC indices and morphology , and examination of the peripheral smear. The reticulocyte count demonstrates how well the bone marrow is compensating for the anemia. Subsequent tests are selected on the basis of these results and on the clinical presentation. Recognition of general diagnostic patterns can expedite the diagnosis .
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
Your provider may have ordered a blood test because you have symptoms of conditions that affect hematocrit levels. If thats your situation, you should contact your provider if your symptoms get worse.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
You may have had a blood test showing your hematocrit levels are higher or lower than normal. There are lots of reasons why this happens. Sometimes, higher or lower hematocrit levels are signs of serious medical conditions. Unusual hematocrit levels may simply happen because you have less serious conditions like obstructive sleep apnea. Ask your healthcare provider to interpret your individual test results. Theyll explain your results, and if you have an underlying condition, theyll determine treatments for your condition.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/18/2022.
Why Do I Need This Test
You may need this test if it is part of routine blood testing. You may also need your hematocrit checked before having surgery or if your healthcare provider suspects you have a red blood cell disorder. Too many red blood cells is called polycythemia. Too few red blood cells is called anemia.
Polycythemia may cause:
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Platelets Helping To Clot Blood
Platelets are the smallest blood cells. They are an important part of blood clotting. These small cells clump together and form a sticky mass that helps the blood to clot. Blood clots help your body handle injury by stopping or preventing bleeding. Blood clots can also cause problems, however, when they occur within the blood vessels or the heart such clots cause a blockage known as thrombosis.