PCV

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Also known as: Packed cell volume; haematocrit

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

If your doctor suspects that you have anaemia (too few red blood cells), polycythaemia (too many red blood cells), or dehydration

When to Get Tested?

As part of a full blood count (FBC), a general blood screening test which may be requested for a variety of reasons

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in your arm or by a finger-prick (children and adults) or heel-prick (newborns)

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Blood is a mixture of cells and plasma. The packed cell volume (PCV) is a measurement of the proportion of blood that is made up of cells. The value is expressed as a percentage or fraction of cells in blood. For example, a PCV of 40% means that there are 40 millilitres of cells in 100 millilitres of blood.

Red blood cells account for nearly all the cells in the blood. The PCV rises when the number of red blood cells increases or when the total blood volume is reduced, as in dehydration. The PCV falls to less than normal, indicating anaemia, when your body decreases its production of red blood cells or increases its destruction of red blood cells.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A sample is obtained by taking blood through a needle placed in a vein in the arm or by a finger-prick (for children and adults) or a heel-prick (for newborns).

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.