Osmotic fragility is a test to detect whether red blood cells are more likely to break down.
A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture
In the laboratory, red blood cells are tested with a solution that makes them swell, in order to determine how fragile they are.
No special preparation is necessary for this test.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
This test is performed to detect hereditary spherocytosis and thalassemia. Hereditary spherocytosis makes red blood cells more fragile than normal. Some red blood cells in patients with thalassemia are more fragile than normal, but a larger number are less fragile than normal.
A negative test is normal.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another, and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Golan DE. Hemolytic anemias: red cell membrane and metabolic defects. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 20011:chap 164.
Gallagher PG, Jarolim P. Red blood cell membrane disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 46.
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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