Hi. Welcome to our video series
on interpreting lab values.
Now, in this section, we're going to
look at red blood cells from the CBC.
Okay. So let's talk about these guys.
They're amazing. They're the most
abundant cells in your bloodstream.
They outnumber the white cells 1,000 to 1.
Now, their main role, their only role, is
to do oxygen and CO2 transportation.
So these guys are transporters.
They transport oxygen and carbon
dioxide around the body.
Red blood cells are just essentially
this cell membrane
filled with 4 hemoglobins. Those
are the carriers of the oxygen
and the carbon dioxide.
So think of a red blood cell as just
this big bag that carries hemoglobin.
There's no nucleus, and it's
this biconcave disc.
Now if you're wondering
what biconcave looks like,
we've got a great picture for you there.
It's kind of like a doughnut, but
the hole is actually filled in.
So this will introduce you to
a red blood cell.
Remember, it outnumbers the
white blood cells 1000 to 1,
and its main job is transportation
of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
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.
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.
Let's start with a low red blood cell count.
So when the red blood cell
count is decreased,
your hemoglobin will be decreased, and
your hematocrit will be decreased.
And a low red cell count is called anemia.
Now, maybe you've had anemia, but if you
haven't, let me tell you what it feels like.
Your patient will tell you they feel
exhausted and they feel weak.
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.
So somebody with anemia just
feels really tired and draggy.
Now, the cause of the anemia,
well, there's multiple possible causes.
Let me talk about just a couple.
Low levels of vitamins or iron.
It could be from blood loss, and it could
be for some other underlying condition.
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.
So, for now, just focus on a low
red cell count, we call that anemia.
Your patient's going to feel
very tired and weak.
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.
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.
Okay. So, we looked at low red blood cells,
that's when you're really tired and fatigued.
Now we're going to talk about
high red blood cells.
Remember, when your red
blood cell count goes up,
your hemoglobin will go up,
as will your hematocrit.
So, a high red cell count is
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.
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.
So maybe your heart isn't pumping efficiently.
Or something's going on with your lungs.
The body is amazing in a way that it will
pump out more red blood cells,
so you have more carriers available.
So if you see a patient with
a high red cell count,
consider there may be an underlying
condition we haven't yet diagnosed.
Okay. So, let's get back to
that oxygen transport thing.
See we have our biconcave disc here.
You see the oxygen molecules
and the hemoglobin molecules.
So let's say this red cell is now
into the lungs, right?
So it's traveling through your
It's picking up oxygen from the lungs.
The oxygen will bind to the hemoglobin,
and then the oxygen will be released to
the tissue cells once it arrives there.
So this is what we're looking for when
we talk about oxygen transport.
You've got your biconcave disc,
the red blood cell.
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.