A reticulocyte count measures the number of immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) in your bone marrow. Doctors measure reticulocytes to find out if your bone marrow is producing enough red blood cells. This test is one of many ways to diagnose and monitor conditions that affect your red blood cells.
A reticulocyte count measures the number of immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) in your bone marrow. Healthcare providers measure reticulocytes to find out if your bone marrow is producing enough healthy red blood cells.
Your bone marrow is a red blood cell production line, constantly creating and nurturing new red blood cells to replace aging and dying red blood cells. That production line goes into high gear if you need more red blood cells than usual. Measuring reticulocytes is one of the many ways healthcare providers diagnose and monitor conditions that affect your red blood cells.
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Your healthcare provider may order a reticulocyte count:
Your reticulocyte count is a percentage of the total number of red blood cells in your blood sample. The normal reticulocyte count ranges between 0.5 % to 2.5% in adults and 2% to 6% in infants.
Healthcare providers take a small sample of blood from your arm. They send the sample to a laboratory for analysis. At the laboratory, technicians place the sample into a special instrument that measures all of the cells in your blood sample, including the number of reticulocytes and other important cell characteristics.
A reticulocyte counts that’s higher or lower than normal may be a sign of a blood disorder. Having an unusually high or low reticulocyte count doesn’t necessarily mean you have a specific illness. It’s important to remember this is a single test used to help diagnose potential problems. Ask your doctor to explain what your test results mean. They’re your best resource for information about your specific situation.
A lower than normal reticulocyte count may be a sign of several conditions, including hypoproliferative anemias. Hypoproliferative anemias happen when your bone marrow can’t make enough new red blood cells. Here are examples of hypoproliferative anemias:
Other conditions are:
A higher-than-normal reticulocyte count may be a symptom of the following conditions:
There are several reasons why your healthcare provider may order a reticulocyte test. You may want to know more about the test and the reasons for it. Suggested questions for your healthcare provider include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A reticulocyte count measures the number of immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) in your bone marrow. Healthcare providers measure reticulocytes to find out if your bone marrow is producing enough red blood cells. Your test results may show your reticulocyte count is higher or lower than normal. It can be stressful when a test result indicates something unusual is happening in your body. If that’s your situation, ask your healthcare provider to explain what your results mean. Understanding your results will help you put them into perspective so you’ll feel less anxious or stressed if your blood tests show abnormal reticulocyte levels.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/18/2022.
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