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LE Cell Blood Test

Last updated May 9, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP


Microphotograph of a macrophage that has phagocytized a lymphocyte (LE cell). May Grünwald Giemsa stain.

What are other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • LE Slide Cell Blood Test
  • Lupus Erythematosus Cell Blood Test
  • SLE Blood Test

What is LE Cell Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is a nonspecific immune disorder. It is caused by antibodies, which are defense proteins that attack the body’s own tissues instead of foreign invaders. Lupus may affect a wide range of tissues, including joints, lungs, brain, heart, kidneys, and skin. This leads to a diverse array of symptoms
  • Individuals most often affected by lupus are adults, and currently, the disorder cannot be cured. However, with diet and lifestyle changes, in addition to medications to treat symptoms, the disorder may be effectively managed
  • An LE cell is either a neutrophil or a macrophage that has engulfed (phagocytized) degraded nuclear material from another cell. The engulfed nuclear material takes up Haematoxylin stain strongly; this strongly-stained engulfed nuclear material is called LE body
  • Detection of LE cell is made through microscopic examination. Specialized testing such as flow cytometric analysis can also detect LE cell in an automated manner
  • The LE Cell Blood Test is a screening test for lupus. It detects lupus cells. The test is used when lupus is suspected, but because it is less specific than other tests, it has mostly been replaced
  • The test was commonly used in the past to diagnose systemic lupus erythematosus. But currently, SLE is diagnosed by more sensitive and specific tests such as anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) blood test

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the LE Cell Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indicators for performing the LE Cell Blood Test: 

  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Light sensitivity

How is the Specimen Collected for LE Cell Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for LE Cell Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood 

Process of obtaining a blood sample in adults:

  • A band is wrapped around the arm, 3-4 inches above the collection site (superficial vein that lies within the elbow pit)
  • The site is cleaned with 70% alcohol in an outward spiral, away from the zone of needle insertion
  • The needle cap is removed and is held in line with the vein, pulling the skin tight
  • With a small and quick thrust, the vein is penetrated using the needle
  • The required amount of blood sample is collected by pulling the plunger of the syringe out slowly
  • The wrap band is removed, gauze is placed on the collection site, and the needle is removed
  • The blood is immediately transferred into the blood container, which has the appropriate preservative/clot activator/anti-coagulant
  • The syringe and the needle are disposed into the appropriate “sharp container” for safe and hygienic disposal

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the LE Cell Blood Test Result?

The detection of lupus cells is interpreted as a positive value for the LE Cell Blood Test.

  • This may point to a diagnosis of lupus, as a positive value is linked to lupus in 60-80% of the cases
  • However, further testing is necessary before a definitive diagnosis may be reached

The LE Cell Blood Test can be positive in other conditions also such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Acquired hemolytic anemia
  • Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Individuals taking certain medications such as hydralazine and phenylbutazone

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • The antinuclear autoantibodies blood test has replaced the Lupus Erythematosus Cell Blood Test because of its greater sensitivity

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

The following DoveMed website link is a useful resource for additional information:


Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 4, 2016
Last updated: May 9, 2019