Erythrocyte Parameters

Meaning of the abbreviations

MCH = mean corpuscular haemoglobin MCV = mean cell volume MCHC = mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration RDW = red cell distribution width All these abbreviated parameters are used to describe the red blood count, i.e. the red blood cells (erythrocytes) in more detail. They are particularly important in the case of anemia, since a change in the values in one direction and a certain combination of changed values can at least provide an indication of the cause of anemia. In anemia the body has too few red blood cells.

These are essential for the transport of oxygen in the body and ensure that all organs and parts of the body are sufficiently supplied with O2, which is essential for survival. The oxygen is bound by hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is called red dye and is found in every red blood cell in large quantities.

Iron is necessary for the body’s own production of hemoglobin. Anemia is typically manifested by a reduced hemoglobin value or a decreased hematocrit value. The hematocrit shows the cellular proportion of the blood volume and thus gives an indication of the number of red blood cells. A normal hematocrit value is 40-54% for men and between 37 and 47% for women. A normal hemoglobin value is 14-18 g/dl for men and between 12 and 16 g/dl for women.


MCV describes the average volume of a red blood cell. It is calculated from the hematocrit number of red blood cells and has a standard value of 78-94 fl. An elevated MCV is often accompanied by a correspondingly elevated MCH.

The volume of red blood cells is therefore increased because their hemoglobin content has increased. This is known as macrocytic (enlarged cells), hyperchromic (increased colored cells), or megaloblastic anemia. This indicates a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid.

In addition, the vitamin levels can be determined and help in making a diagnosis. An isolated elevated MCV value can also be an indication of a chronic alcohol abuse. In the laboratory, further conspicuous blood values such as gamma-GT, an enzyme of the liver, are often found.

However, the most specific laboratory parameter with regard to a chronic alcohol abuse is CDT (carbohydrate-deficient transferrin). A lowered MCV is usually accompanied by an equally lowered MCH. The red blood cells are therefore smaller and contain less hemoglobin than normal.

This is called microcytic (reduced cells), hypochromic (less red stained cells) anemia. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of this form of anemia. In order to find out whether iron deficiency anaemia is actually a case, other parameters such as iron, ferritin (the stored form of iron), transferrin (the transport form of iron) and the soluble transferrin receptor (used to absorb iron into the body) should be determined. Iron deficiency is caused either by loss of iron, for example due to bleeding (the most common example is menstruation in women), or by insufficient absorption of iron from food.