Red blood cell (RBC) indices quantify the Size, Shape (Morphology), and functional properties of red blood cells. Red blood cells, also referred to as erythrocytes, they help in the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s cells. For growth, reproduction and overall health, cells require oxygen. Four types of red blood cell indices:  

Mean corpuscular/ cell volume – The average size of red blood cells is measured by the mean corpuscular/cell volume (MCV). 

Normal range – 80- 96 fl  

Decreased MCV  

  • When red blood cells are larger than usual, then the MCV is higher than usual. We refer to this as macrocytic anemia. 
  • Hemolytic anemia, iron deficiency anemia, thalassemia etc.

Increased MCV 

  • when red blood cells are too small, the MCV will be lower than usual. We refer to this as microcytic anemia.
  • Megaloblastic anemia, liver diseases, alcoholism, Reticulocytosis etc. 

Mean corpuscular/cell hemoglobin– The average quantity of hemoglobin found in a single red blood cell is measured by mean corpuscular hemoglobin. Red blood cells contain the protein called hemoglobin, which transports oxygen throughout the body. 

Normal Range – 27-32 pg 

Increased MCH

  • Hyperchromic anemias have a lower MCH value.
  •  Liver diseases, vitamin B12 deficiency, alcoholism, hyperactivity of thyroid.

Decreased MCH 

  • Hypochromic anemias have a higher MCH value. 
  • Iron deficiency anemia, thalassemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency etc. 

Mean corpuscular/cell hemoglobin concentration- Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), a test for red blood cell hemoglobin. Hemoglobin content per unit of volume is indicated by MCHC. It can be reported as a percentage or as g/dl of red blood cells.

Normal Range- 30-35gm/dl 

Increased MCHC

SLE, Hereditary spherocytosis, lymphoma etc. 

Decreased MCHC 

Sideroblastic anemia, Iron deficiency anemia, etc. 

Red cell distribution width (RDW)-  A red cell distribution width (RDW) test quantifies the variations in red blood cells’ volume and size. A high RDW indicates that the smallest and largest red blood cells are significantly different in size. 

Red cell indices used for 

Red blood cell (RBC) indices are one of the tests that make up a complete blood count, a series of checks that evaluate various aspects of blood. Different forms of anemia are diagnosed using the RBC indices data. There are various forms of anemia and each type affects red blood cells differently in terms of size, shape, or quality.