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Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

Overview :

The ESR test is a simple test dating back to the ancient Greeks. A specific amount of diluted, unclotted blood is placed in a special narrow tube and left undisturbed for exactly one hour. The red cells settle towards the bottom of the tube, and the pale yellow liquid (plasma) rises to the top. After 60 minutes, measurements are taken of the distance the red cells traveled to settle at the bottom of the tube. Two methods, the Westergren and the Wintrobe, are used by laboratories; each method produces slightly different results. Most laboratories use the Westergren method.

Normally red cells don't settle far toward the bottom of the tube. Many diseases make extra or abnormal proteins that cause the red cells to move close together, stack up, and form a column (rouleaux). In a group, red cells are heavier and fall faster. The faster they fall, the further they settle, and the higher the ESR.

The ESR test is covered by insurance when medically necessary. Results are usually available the same or following day.

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