Sedimentation Rate (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate or ESR)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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What is a sedimentation rate?

A sedimentation rate is common blood test that is used to detect and monitor inflammation in the body. The sedimentation rate is also called the erythrocyte sedimentation rate because it is a measure of the red blood cells (erythrocytes) sedimenting in a tube over a given period of time. Sedimentation rate is often abbreviated as "sed rate" or ESR. Although this test measures a general state of inflammation, it is not specific to what causes the inflammation. It is elevated in inflammatory diseases, including arthritis as well as in autoimmune diseases such as lupus. It can also be elevated due to other conditions such as certain cancers and Grave's disease.

Why is a sedimentation rate performed?

A blood sedimentation rate is tested to detect inflammation in the body. It can also be used to follow the progress of a disease.

What specialists order a sedimentation rate?

All specialties of medicine can order this simple blood test while evaluating symptoms in order to determine whether or not there is inflammation in the body.

How is a sedimentation rate performed?

A sedimentation rate is performed by measuring the rate at which red blood cells (RBCs) settle in a test tube. The RBCs become sediment in the bottom of the test tube over time, leaving the blood serum visible above. The classic sedimentation rate is simply how far the top of the RBC layer has fallen (in millimeters) in one hour. The sedimentation rate will be higher in the presence of increased inflammation.

What is the normal range for sedimentation rate?

The normal sedimentation rate (Westergren method) for males is 0-15 millimeters per hour, females is 0-20 millimeters per hour. The sedimentation rate may normally be slightly higher in the elderly.

REFERENCE:

Firestein, Gary S., et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 9th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2013.

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Reviewed on 9/9/2016
References
REFERENCE:

Firestein, Gary S., et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 9th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2013.

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