Clinical laboratory tests are very important in medical practice. Sometimes it is the only way to determine the presence of a disease. One of the most commonly administered tests is the sedimentation rate of erythrocytes.
It is also known as Westergren sedimentation rate. It is a test that measures the rate at which they are deposited in the bottom of a test tube. A higher or lower rate than usual may indicate the presence of various medical problems.
Under normal conditions, the erythrocytes or red blood cells have a negative charge. This causes them to repel each other at a sedimentation rate of 10 millimeters per hour. Nevertheless, the same may vary depending on the person studied and their lifestyle.
Reasons to test erythrocyte sedimentation rate
The sedimentation rate of erythrocytes is a test that helps guide the specialist and let them discover the existence of diseases. In this sense, it can be helpful when faced with the following situations:
- Fever of unknown origin.
- Symptoms affecting the muscles.
However, the physician should analyze what the patient’s symptoms are, along with the laboratory test results. By doing this they will be able to give a definite diagnosis.
In addition, specialists can use ESR as important diagnostic criteria for two diseases: polymyalgia rheumatica and arteritis temporalis. Both diseases are very rare and tend to occur only in patients over 50 years of age.
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disease that affects the proximal muscles of the limbs and torso by causing pain and restricting movement. Arteritis temporalis, visual impairment, fever, jaw pain and anemia.
How should I prepare for this test?
It is a fairly simple and quick test that does not require any kind of extraordinary preparation. If you are only undergoing an erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, there is no need to fast, but if your doctor performs other tests at the same time, you may need to do so.
To perform the test, a specialist must take venous blood with a syringe. This must be taken from the arm. This can also mean that during the test you may feel a slight pain or irritation, which can sometimes last for the rest of the day. However, it should not affect your ability to perform other daily activities.
The blood analysis part of the test is very simple and usually follows the Westergreen method, where specialists mix 2 ml of blood with 0.5 ml of citrate in a test tube and then measure erythrocyte-free distance.
After one hour, they measure the distance between the red blood cells again in millimeters to determine the rate at which they came down.
What does the sedimentation rate of a high erythrocyte mean?
When the sedimentation rate is above the normal values, it may indicate the presence of diseases that develop with inflammation and some tumors. According to some studies, the rate increases over a 24-hour period and usually does not return to normal values until after dissolution.
These types of diseases increase the concentration of various proteins in the blood plasma. Each of these proteins, especially fibrinogen, will affect the surface charge of the red blood cells, causing them to fall at a higher rate.
Nevertheless, various situations that increase the fibrinogen in the blood, such as pregnancy, diabetes, or renal failure in terminal stages, are able to increase the sedimentation rate of erythrocytes. Among other reasons we can mention the following:
- Macrocytosis (reaches the amount of those than normal).
- Acute bleeding.
- Acute myocardial infarction ().
- Metastatic carcinoma (stage four or advanced cancer).
What does the sedimentation rate of a low erythrocyte mean?
Most of the time, the sedimentation rate of a low erythrocyte does not have much medical relevance. In this sense, the level can reach 0 mm in normal patients, and this is usually not a cause for concern among specialists.
However, the sedimentation rate of a low erythrocyte between 0 and 3 mm is associated with various health problems. Among these, the following stand out:
- Poliglobulia or a large number of red blood cells.
- Deformities of the red blood cells.
- Smoking habits.
- Heart failure.
And if that weren’t enough, infectious diseases like dengue can slow down sedimentation rates. , where ESR patients with the disease had a significantly lower frequency compared to others with acute fever syndrome, this shows.
A simple but effective test
As you can see, the sedimentation rate of erythrocytes is not a complex test, but it is very useful when searching for the presence of diseases that develop with inflammation. It can guide the doctor and help them give an accurate diagnosis.
As for the role of the patient in this, there is no special preparation that they have to perform before getting the test done. In addition, after the procedure, they will be able to continue their daily activities without inconvenience!