A reticulocyte count is a blood test that measures how fast red blood cells called reticulocytes are made by the bone marrow and released into the blood. Reticulocytes are in the blood for about 2 days before developing into mature red blood cells.
The reticulocyte count rises when there is a lot of blood loss or in certain diseases in which red blood cells are destroyed prematurely, such as hemolytic anemia. Also, being at high altitudes may cause reticulocyte counts to rise, to help you adjust to the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.
Why It Is Done
A reticulocyte count is done to:
- See whether anemia is caused by fewer red blood cells being made or by a greater loss of red blood cells.
- Check how well bone marrow is working to make red blood cells.
- Check to see if treatment for anemia is working. For example, a higher reticulocyte count means that iron replacement treatment or other treatment to reverse the anemia is working.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before you have this test.
How It Is Done
The health professional drawing blood will:
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with alcohol.
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
- Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
- Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.
How It Feels
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.