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Hemoglobin Levels

What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin (sometimes abbreviated as Hb) is complex protein found in red blood cells that contains an iron molecule. The main function of hemoglobin is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues, and to exchange the oxygen for carbon dioxide, and then carry the carbon dioxide back to the lungs and where it is exchanged for oxygen. The iron molecule in hemoglobin helps maintain the normal shape of red blood cells.

How is hemoglobin test measured?

Hemoglobin is routinely measured as part of a routine blood test termed blood count (CBC). A complete blood count is one of the most common tests doctors order for a patient. It is done on automated machines that use a blood sample that is chemically treated to release hemoglobin from red blood cells. The released hemoglobin then is bound chemically to cyanide that forms a compound that absorbs light. The amount of absorbed light is then measured, and this measurement is directly related to how much hemoglobin is present in the blood.

Picture of Red Blood Cells

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2014

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Hemoglobin (Levels):

Hemoglobin - Results

What were the results of your hemoglobin test and what condition did it ultimately help diagnose?

Blood testing

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

What are Values for Components of Complete Blood Count?

The following lists some of the typical values of the components of the complete blood count:

  • WBC (white blood cell) count signifies the number of white blood cells in the blood and usually ranges between 4,300 and 10,800 cells per cubic millimeter (cmm).
  • RBC (red blood cell) count measures the number of red blood cells in a volume of blood and usually ranges between 4.2 to 5.9 million cells per cmm.
  • Hemoglobin (Hbg) measures the amount of the hemoglobin molecule in a volume of blood and normally is 13 to 18 grams per deciliter (one-hundredth of a liter) for men and 12 to 16 grams per deciliter for women.
  • Hematocrit (Hct) signifies the percentage of the whole blood occupied by red blood cells and usually ranges between 45%-52% for men and 37%-48% for women.
  • Mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is the measurement of the average size or volume of a typical red blood cell in a blood sample and usually ranges between 80 to 100 femtoliters (a fraction of one-millionth of a liter).
  • Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) measures the amount of hemoglobin in an average red blood cell and usually ranges between 27 to 32 picograms
  • Red cell distribution width (RDW)
  • Platelet count
  • Mean platelet volume (MPV)




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