How is blood collected for a CBC?
Blood is collected by venipuncture (using a needle to draw blood from a vein) in a lab, hospital, or physician's office. Typically, blood is collected in a special sterile tube from an arm vein. The tube has some preservatives to prevent clotting of the blood. Results may be available in an hour or longer depending on the setting.
In some instances, a quick in office test called hemoglobin rapid test may be performed using a few drops of blood from a finger prick. The advantage of this quick test is that results may be obtained in a few minutes and only a few drops of blood may be required.
What is the red blood cell (RBC) count?
The red blood cells (RBCs or erythrocytes) are the most common type of cells in the blood. We each have millions and millions of these little disc-shaped cells. The RBC count is done to determine if the number of red blood cells is low (anemia) or high (polycythemia).
In an RBC count, the number and size of the RBCs are determined. This is usually reported as number of RBCs per a specified volume, typically in millions of RBCs in microliters (one one-thousandth of an ml) of whole blood. The shape of the RBCs is also evaluated under a microscope. All of this information, the number, size and shape of the RBCs, is useful in the diagnosis of anemia. Further, the specific type of anemia may be determined by this information.