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Cold Agglutinins

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

A cold agglutinins blood test is done to check for conditions that cause the body to make certain antibodies called cold agglutinins. The results of the cold agglutinins test is usually reported in titers.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what’s normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Cold agglutinins1
Normal titer

Less than 1 to 16 (1:16) at 4°C

High values

  • High titers of cold agglutinins may be caused by infections, such as pneumonia caused by mycoplasma, mononucleosis, hepatitis C, or other viral infections.
  • High titers of cold agglutinins can cause symptoms when a person is exposed to cold temperatures. These symptoms can include numbness, burning, pain, or pale skin of the fingertips, toes, ears, or nose. Very high titers can mean you have a higher chance of developing blood clots (thromboses) when exposed to cold temperatures.

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to have this test or the results may not be helpful if you are taking antibiotics, especially penicillin and cephalosporins.

What To Think About

  • More than half of people infected with pneumonia caused by mycoplasma develop high levels of cold agglutinins. Newer tests for mycoplasma pneumonia have replaced the cold agglutinins blood test.
  • If clumped red blood cells (called a Rouleaux formation) are seen on a complete blood count (CBC) test, your doctor may order a cold agglutinins test to see whether high cold agglutinin levels are present.
  • A blood type test is done before a blood transfusion or organ transplant to make sure that the donor's and recipient's blood types match. Blood that has high levels of cold agglutinins may be hard to type. For more information about blood typing, see the topic Blood Type Test.
  • If a person has high levels of cold agglutinins and has symptoms brought on by cold temperatures, it is important for this person to be kept warm. High levels of cold agglutinins in this case could lead to frostbite, anemia, or Raynaud's phenomenon. Medicines to help lower high levels of cold agglutinins may be given when severe symptoms are brought on by cold exposure.
  • Older adults may have high titers of cold agglutinins that last for years.
  • Cold agglutinins in the blood can cause problems with automated machines that measure blood count.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 30, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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