The CBC test panel checks the complete blood count with differential and platelets.
CBC Test FAQ
What is a CBC Test?
Why is the WBC count in the CBC test important?
Why are the Hemoglobin, RBC count, and Hematocrit in the CBC test important?
Why is the Platelet count in the CBC test important?
What type of specimen will I submit?
Do I need to fast to take this test?
How long does it take to get test results?
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Related To The CBC Test
More About the CBC Blood Test
This CBC test, also known as a complete blood count test and CBC with differential and platelets, measures the blood levels of various types of cells and proteins in the blood. The test has been used for decades and is easily performed by standard laboratory equipment. The CBC test, along with the CMP test and the lipid panel test, are considered important lab tests for routine lab screening. The main focus of the CBC blood test is to evaluate the presence and quantity of several major types of blood cells - platelets, red blood cells (RBC), and white blood cells (WBC). In addition to measuring the quantities or concentrations of the different major types of cells in aggregate, the "differential" part of the complete blood count analyzes subcategories of the major categories for a more detailed picture of one's blood count.
White blood cells can be divided into the subcategories neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils. Cell counts for these different types of cells are often elevated in bacterial infections (neutrophils, monocytes), viral infections (lymphocytes), allergies and parasitic infections (eosinophils) and specific types of cancers (lymphocytes and basophils). Red blood cells can be divided into hemoglobin and hematocrit (used to check for anemia) and other markers used to determine the type and severity of anemias (MCH, MCHC, MCV and RDW). Platelets are an important part of the clotting system and the concentration of these cells are measured in the CBC test.
There are a number of reasons that people get the CBC test. Most commonly, the CBC is ordered as part of routine blood work performed quarterly or as part of an annual physical exam. In this capacity, the CBC test gives a helpful snapshot and is a useful adjunct to other health testing. The CBC lab test is also ordered in the setting of illness - both acute and chronic - as it plays an important role in identifying hematological changes associated with an infection, cancer, clotting disorders and other conditions. Checking for anemia is another common reason people get the CBC test as the hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are helpful in that regard. While an anemia test panel might be more suitable for an advanced anemia workup, the CBC blood test is useful as a first-line screening tool for anemia.
Most people who obtain a CBC test can focus on a few key markers within the test results. With slight variations, CBC test results are typically normal in most healthy people. In the setting of infections (particularly more severe ones), the components of the CBC such as the white blood cell count start increasing and highlight that an acute process is going on in the body. CBC lab values also start to change when one has anemia (as seen by decreasing hemoglobin and hematocrit levels). Platelet level abnormalities can lead to blood clotting disorders. The rest of the CBC lab markers tend to be of greater interest with more complex and infrequent blood disorders and are usually evaluated and managed under the guidance of a hematology specialist.
The process of getting a CBC test near you is a relatively simple one. Since the blood test can be performed by any standard lab location, getting tested just requires finding a convenient lab and getting your blood drawn. The blood will be drawn into a special vial that contains chemicals that prevent clotting and then the sample with be analyzed by a machine to determine results for the various CBC test components. The machine first mixes the blood specimen. Then, using a technique called flow cytometry, the CBC analyzer will use a laser to calculate the presence of different types of cells in the blood as they flow through a narrow channel.
When considering CBC blood test results, both high number and low number of any given component typically imply an abnormality which, in the right context, can be concerning. For example, high white blood cell counts can signify an infection or specific types of cancers while low WBC counts can mean a compromised immune system. A high hemoglobin level might mean that you have a condition called polycythemia while low levels might imply a clotting problem related to a number of possible conditions. Given the complexity involved with interpreting CBC lab test results, we recommend that all CBC test reports be reviewed with a licensed medical provider.
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