Red Blood Cells (RBC) (Nursing)

by Rhonda Lawes

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    00:01 Hi. Welcome to our video series on interpreting lab values.

    00:05 Now, in this section, we're going to look at red blood cells from the CBC.

    00:09 Okay. So let's talk about these guys.

    00:11 They're amazing. They're the most abundant cells in your bloodstream.

    00:15 They outnumber the white cells 1,000 to 1.

    00:19 Now, their main role, their only role, is to do oxygen and CO2 transportation.

    00:25 So these guys are transporters.

    00:27 They transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body.

    00:31 Red blood cells are just essentially this cell membrane filled with 4 hemoglobins. Those are the carriers of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide.

    00:40 So think of a red blood cell as just this big bag that carries hemoglobin.

    00:45 There's no nucleus, and it's this biconcave disc.

    00:48 Now if you're wondering what biconcave looks like, we've got a great picture for you there.

    00:53 It's kind of like a doughnut, but the hole is actually filled in.

    00:57 So this will introduce you to a red blood cell.

    00:59 Remember, it outnumbers the white blood cells 1000 to 1, and its main job is transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

    01:09 Now when you're looking at the results, the red blood cells on your CBC, we're going to talk about the red blood cell count, the hemoglobin, and hematocrit.

    01:18 Remember, the hemoglobin and hematocrit are often referred to as H&H, so each one of these measures a different aspect of your red blood cells.

    01:26 Let's start with a low red blood cell count.

    01:29 So when the red blood cell count is decreased, your hemoglobin will be decreased, and your hematocrit will be decreased.

    01:35 And a low red cell count is called anemia.

    01:39 Now, maybe you've had anemia, but if you haven't, let me tell you what it feels like.

    01:43 Your patient will tell you they feel exhausted and they feel weak.

    01:48 Well, the reason for that is with fewer red blood cells, they're not able to get as much oxygen to their tissues as they would need to have adequate energy.

    01:56 So somebody with anemia just feels really tired and draggy.

    02:01 Now, the cause of the anemia, well, there's multiple possible causes. Let me talk about just a couple.

    02:07 Low levels of vitamins or iron.

    02:09 It could be from blood loss, and it could be for some other underlying condition.

    02:13 Yeah. I know. I'm a lot of help there, right? Well, stick with us. I'm going to show you how on a CBC, some of those values that you probably never looked at before can give us some clues as to the cause of the anemia.

    02:26 So, for now, just focus on a low red cell count, we call that anemia.

    02:32 Your patient's going to feel very tired and weak.

    02:35 They may even get out of breath more than normal because they don't have enough red blood cells to carry around oxygen to their cells.

    02:43 There's lots of different reasons that could cause the anemia, and we'll dig down deeper into that as we continue through the presentation.

    02:50 Okay. So, we looked at low red blood cells, that's when you're really tired and fatigued.

    02:56 Now we're going to talk about high red blood cells.

    02:59 Remember, when your red blood cell count goes up, your hemoglobin will go up, as will your hematocrit.

    03:06 So, a high red cell count is called erythrocytosis.

    03:10 Now a high hemoglobin or a high hematocrit level, as well, could point to something -- some underlying medical condition, such as polycythemia, meaning multiple cells -- polycythemia vera, or heart disease.

    03:24 So sometimes, when you have a chronic condition and you're not getting enough oxygen to your cells, your body will respond by producing more red blood cells, so you have more carriers.

    03:34 So maybe your heart isn't pumping efficiently. Or something's going on with your lungs.

    03:39 The body is amazing in a way that it will pump out more red blood cells, so you have more carriers available.

    03:47 So if you see a patient with a high red cell count, consider there may be an underlying condition we haven't yet diagnosed.

    03:53 Okay. So, let's get back to that oxygen transport thing.

    03:56 See we have our biconcave disc here.

    03:59 You see the oxygen molecules and the hemoglobin molecules.

    04:03 So let's say this red cell is now into the lungs, right? So it's traveling through your pulmonary vasculature.

    04:09 It's picking up oxygen from the lungs.

    04:12 The oxygen will bind to the hemoglobin, and then the oxygen will be released to the tissue cells once it arrives there.

    04:20 So this is what we're looking for when we talk about oxygen transport.

    04:23 You've got your biconcave disc, the red blood cell.

    04:27 It circulates through the heart to the lung vasculature, picks up the oxygen, dumps off the CO2, then it will travel through to your tissues, deliver the oxygen to your tissues, and pick up more carbon dioxide, return back to the lungs. And that process just keeps repeating over and over again. That's how we stay alive.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Red Blood Cells (RBC) (Nursing) by Rhonda Lawes is from the course Complete Blood Count (CBC) (Nursing).

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. O2 and CO2
    2. Bacterial cells
    3. Viral cells
    4. Vitamins and minerals
    1. Anemia
    2. Erythrocytosis
    3. Myeloma
    4. Hemophilia
    1. Hemoglobin
    2. Hematocrit
    3. Cytoplasm
    4. Nucleus

    Author of lecture Red Blood Cells (RBC) (Nursing)

     Rhonda Lawes

    Rhonda Lawes

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