Packed cell volume (PCV) measures the percentage of red blood cell found in the whole blood. The components of blood are red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells help in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. High or low levels of red blood cells may be a sign of certain diseases or conditions and the immediate symptoms may be fatigue, shortness of breath, and headache, etc. Packed cell volume (PCV) test is one amongst many tests that may be used to monitor or diagnose a condition called anemia. In anemia, the blood may either lack enough healthy red blood cells. This test may also be used to monitor or diagnose a condition known as polycythemia, a rare type of blood cancer. This test may also be performed as part of a complete blood count test panel to monitor the overall health of an individual. Your doctor may advise you to undergo this test if you experience signs and symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, pale skin, cold hands, and feet, etc. These are some of the common signs and symptoms which may be associated with anemia or polycythemia. You may be advised to undergo this test if you are pregnant or you have a family history of anemia, suffering from an infection, blood loss after surgery or other reasons, or suffering from heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, etc. If you have a family history of anemia, your doctor may ask you to perform this test on a 6-monthly basis or a yearly basis. Anemic patients should perform this test on a regular basis or as instructed by the doctor. If the test result falls in the normal reference range, generally no further medical intervention is necessary. A lower than normal hematocrit indicates that the percentage of red blood cells in blood is low. The major cause of low hematocrit is anemia. The symptoms of anemia are a headache, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, pale skin, cold hands, and feet etc. The other reasons for low hematocrit are an increase in white blood cells due to the certain type of cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma; long-term illnes, or infections, etc. Deficiency of iron, vitamin B-12, and folic acid; recent blood donations, or heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, etc. may also result in low levels of hematocrit. A higher than normal hematocrit indicates that the percentage of red blood cells in blood is high. This is may be due to a condition called polycythemia, a condition where the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells. The symptoms of polycythemia are a headache, tiredness, blurred or double vision, shortness of breath, flushed skin, itching, sweating etc. Medical conditions such as heart or lung diseases, dehydration (due to severe diarrhea, excessive vomiting) etc. may result in higher levels of hematocrit. Individuals staying at higher altitudes, undergoing strenuous exercise, or individuals who are heavy smokers may also have higher levels of hematocrit. If you have higher or lower than normal levels of hematocrit, consult your doctor for further instructions. Based on the test results, your doctor may advise you appropriate medical treatments, lifestyle modifications, or further diagnostic tests.
Also known as: PCV Test, Packed Cell Volume Automated Blood, Aematocrit Test, HCT Test, Hematocrit, Packed Cell Volume.