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ERYTHROCYTE (RBC) MORPHOLOGY
- Normal: 7.5 µm diameter. Roughly the size of the nucleus of a small lymphocyte.
- Reticulocytes (Wright’s stain): large, grayish-blue, admixed with pink (polychromasia).
- Anisocytosis: variation in RBC size; large cells imply delay in erythroid precursor DNA synthesis caused by folate or B12 deficiency or drug effect; small cells imply a defect in hemoglobin synthesis caused by iron deficiency or abnormal hemoglobin genes. The automated red cell distribution width (RDW) is a measure of anisocytosis.
- Poikilocytosis: abnormal RBC shapes; the following are examples:
- Acanthocytes (spur cells): irregularly spiculated; abetalipoproteinemia, severe liver disease, rarely anorexia nervosa.
- Echinocytes (burr cells): regularly shaped, uniformly distributed spiny projections; uremia, RBC volume loss.
- Elliptocytes: elliptical; hereditary elliptocytosis.
- Schistocytes (schizocytes): fragmented cells of varying sizes and shapes; microangiopathic or macroangiopathic hemolytic anemia.
- Sickled cells: elongated, crescentic; sickle cell anemias.
- Spherocytes: small hyperchromic cells lacking normal central pallor; hereditary spherocytosis, extravascular hemolysis as in autoimmune hemolytic anemia, G6PD deficiency.
- Target cells: central and outer rim staining with intervening ring of pallor; liver disease, thalassemia, hemoglobin C, and sickle C diseases.
- Teardrop cells: myelofibrosis, other infiltrative processes of marrow (e.g., carcinoma).
- Rouleaux formation: alignment of RBCs in stacks; may be artifactual or due to paraproteinemia (e.g., multiple myeloma, macroglobulinemia).