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Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test

Last updated Nov. 1, 2018

The Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test determines the average volume of red blood cells.


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

  • MCV Blood Test

What is Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Mean corpuscular volume refers to the average volume of red blood cells. It is measured in fL (femtoliters) or 10-15 liters. Red blood cell volume is useful in determining anemias or red blood cell deficiencies
  • Red blood cells (RBCs) are the principle ‘gas’ transport vehicles of the body. They supply tissues with oxygen and carry carbon dioxide away to the lungs for excretion
  • The number and physical characteristics of red blood cells in the blood can change, especially during illness. For example, defective RBCs may be produced or the body may be attacking its own RBCs. Thus, RBC tests can yield abundant health information
  • A group of tests, together called complete blood count tests, measures different aspects of blood. This includes RBCs, as well as white blood cells and other components
  • The Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test determines the average volume of red blood cells. It may be measured directly or calculated as the proportion of red blood cells per blood volume (the hematocrit, or Hct) divided by the number of red blood cells

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indicators for performing the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test: 

  • Routine screening, as part of a complete blood test (CBC)
  • Fatigue; pale appearance (palor)
  • Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Difficulty adapting to altitude changes

Monitoring the effects or progression of certain conditions such as:

  • Chronic blood loss, such as after trauma
  • Burns
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Bone marrow disorders such as polycythemia vera
  • Kidney disorder
  • Liver disorder
  • Bone marrow disorder
  • Medications and chemotherapy

How is the Specimen Collected for Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Mean Corpuscular Volume 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 Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test Result?

The significance of the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test result is explained:

  • A high value (greater than 101 fL) for the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test may point to a diagnosis of:
    • Liver disease and cirrhosis
    • Pernicious anemia
    • Macrocytic anemias
    • Myelodysplastic syndromes
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Hemolysis with high reticulocyte count
  • A low value (less than 82 fL) for the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test may point to a diagnosis of:
    • Iron deficiency anemia
    • Thalassemia
    • Hereditary sideroblastic anemia
    • Lead poisoning
    • Anemia of chronic illness and other hemoglobinopathies

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:

  • Certain factors interfere with the Mean Corpuscular Volume Blood Test. These include pregnancy, alcohol consumption, high altitudes, and hydration status
  • The MCV Blood Test is part of the red blood cell indices blood test

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.

What are some Useful Resources for Additional 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: Nov. 1, 2018