Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. A blood test can tell how much hemoglobin you have in your blood.
See also: Hemoglobin electrophoresis
Alternative Names: Hgb; Hb
How the test is performed:
Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and an elastic band or blood pressure cuff is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins to fill with blood.
A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore blood flow. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, the area is cleansed with antiseptic and punctured with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. Cotton or a bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any continued bleeding.
How to prepare for the test:
No special preparation is necessary.
How the test will feel:
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.
Why the test is performed:
The hemoglobin test is almost always done as part of a complete blood count
Normal results vary, but in general are:
- Male: 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dL
- Female: 12.1 to 15.1 gm/dL
Note: gm/dL = grams per deciliter
What abnormal results mean:
Lower-than-normal hemoglobin may be due to:
Higher-than-normal hemoglobin may be due to:
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
What the risks are:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling light-headed
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
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.
McPherson RA and Pincus MR. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2007:457-9.
Hoffman R, Benz Jr. EJ, Shattil SJ, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingston; 2005:2689-93.
|Review Date: 3/8/2007|
Reviewed By: Mark Levin, MD, Hematologist and Oncologist, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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