If your physician has diagnosed you with a type of anemia or iron deficiency (with a hematology analyzer), then somewhere along the line you must have had a blood test that reflected an abnormal RDW count. Your RDW levels, along with a combination of a few other important blood counts, are what help your physician figure out just what type of anemia you have, and why it has manifested. HIP Health Plan of New York explains that there are more than 400 known types of anemia, which can be further broken down into subgroups relating to blood loss, poor red-cell production and the demise of red blood cells.
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What Does RDW Stand For?
RDW is the abbreviation for "red blood cell distribution width." According to Lab Tests Online, RDW calculates the varying sizes of red blood cell (RBC) volume in a blood sample. An RDW test is usually performed as part of a CBC, or complete blood count.
RDW and MCV
It is virtually impossible to discuss the RDW aspect of a blood test without including MCV, or mean corpuscle value. MCV goes hand in hand with red blood cell distribution width (RDW) in terms of anemia and other hematology disorders, and the values of both are influenced by each other. For instance, low MCV levels in combination with normal RDW may point to chronic disease, while low MCV combined with low RDW can denote iron deficiency. In the same respect, a normal MCV reading in combination with normal RDW may represent a chronic disorder, and normal MCV combined with high RDW can signify a B12 deficiency. Chronolab.com also reveals that when MCV levels are high and RDW is normal, pre-leukemia may be present. Both high MCV and high RDW may mean that a patient is experiencing folate deficiency.
RDW is calculated by dividing the standard deviation (SD) by the mean corpuscle volume (MCV) and then multiplying that result by 100. The standard deviation represents the volume of erythrocytes or red blood cells that are in the blood smear. According to Beckman Coulter, the equation for the RDW calculation is RDW = SD / MCV x 100.
Some other details about the RDW we will discuss the next day---Perlong Medical.