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Hemoglobin

Definition

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

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

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 (CBC).

Normal Results

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

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. 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.

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:

Risks

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:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Bunn HF. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 161.

Review Date: 2/8/2012
Reviewed 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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