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What is a Packed Cell Volume (PCV) test? 
Our blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. All these cells remain suspended in a liquid known as plasma. Packed Cell Volume (PCV) test is done to measure the total amount of cells in our blood.

The red blood cells, also known as erythrocyte account for a major part of the PCV. So any reduction in PCV would be an indication of reduced RBC count and anaemia. This test is also known as the haematocrit test.

  1. Why is a PCV test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a PCV test?
  3. How is a PCV test performed?
  4. What do PCV test results indicate?

A PCV test may be performed as part of a routine health check-up. However, this test may be done immediately if an individual shows symptoms of red blood disorders, such as anaemia or polycythaemia vera. 

The following symptoms can be noted in an individual with anaemia:

The following symptoms will be noted in an individual with polycythaemia vera:

No prior preparations are required for this test. However, if more blood tests need to be performed, your doctor will inform you about any changes or preparations that need to be done.

A PCV test requires the collection of a blood sample, which is done in the following manner: 

  • A lab technician will wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This will help locate the veins below the band so a needle can be easily inserted 
  • He/she will then clean and sanitise the site of blood collection using alcohol 
  • Blood will then be withdrawn by inserting a needle into the vein. One or more needle sticks may be required occasionally 
  • A tube will be attached to the needle to collect the blood sample, and once enough blood is collected, the band will be removed from the arm
  • Finally, cotton gauge will be placed over the needle site to stop bleeding 

You may feel tightness around your arm when the band is wrapped. Few individuals report no pain from the needle, and some may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Some risks associated with this test are

  • Difficulty in obtaining the sample
  • Excessive bleeding at the site from where the blood is drawn
  • Fainting 
  • Haematoma (accumulation of blood under the skin)
  • Infection at the site where the needle is inserted

However, these risks can easily be reduced when proper precautionary measures are taken.

Normal results:

Results from the PCV test are given as the percentage of red blood cells. Normal ranges may vary slightly based on factors such as race, age and sex. The normal range is:

  • Men: 38.3-48.6% for men 
  • Women: 35.5-44.9% for 

Abnormal results:

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor. 

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References

  1. American Society of Hematology. [Internet] U.S Blood Basics
  2. Lab tests Online. [Internet] American Association of Clinical Chemistry, U.S. Hematocrit
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Anemia
  5. Michigan Medicine. [Internet] University of Michigan Hemoglobin Electrophoresis
  6. Healthdirect Australia. Blood tests A-Z. Australian government: Department of Health