Packed Cell Volume (PCV) Test

A Packed Cell Volume(PCV) test of the blood reveals the number of red blood cells. The count is particularly important for diagnosing anaemia.

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What is Packed Cell Volume (hematocrit) test? 

A packed cell volume (hematocrit) test is to evaluate the percentage of the blood that is made up of red blood cells. The measurement indicates the viscosity or thickness of the blood, and it depends on the size and number of RBCs in a blood sample. Packed cell volume (hematocrit) is most often evaluated as part of a complete blood count, which also includes the measurement of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and haemoglobin.   

What are the other names for the Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test? 

The other names are PCV test, Hematocrit test, and HCT test.

What are the test parameters included in the Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

There is only one parameter.


What does a Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test measure?

Human blood is made up of three parts: erythrocytes or red blood cells (RBCs), leukocytes or white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets (thrombocytes) suspended in a fluid called plasma. Each component of the blood performs a specific function. The packed cell volume (PCV), or hematocrit, is the ratio of the volume occupied by the RBCs to the total volume occupied by all the blood components, or the whole blood.


These RBCs transport inhaled oxygen from the lungs to all the cells throughout the body, and also a small amount of carbon dioxide from the cells to the lungs to be exhaled. Majority of the carbon dioxide is transported in the plasma solution as bicarbonate ions. This contains a protein called haemoglobin that binds to oxygen for transport. 


RBCs are produced in the erythropoietic cells of the bone marrow in response to the hormone erythropoietin that is secreted by the kidneys when the oxygen saturation of the blood is detected to be low (hypoxia). The average lifespan of the RBCs in circulation is about 120 days. Hence, the bone marrow continuously manufactures RBCs to maintain a steady concentration in the blood. The packed cell volume test depends on the count as well as the average size of the RBCs (mean corpuscular volume or MCV). A higher than normal number of RBCs produced by the bone marrow may cause the hematocrit to increase, leading to increased blood density and slow blood flow. Lower than the normal hematocrit may be caused by low production of RBCs, reduced lifespan of RBCs in circulation, or excessive bleeding, leading to a reduced amount of oxygen reaching the cells in the body.


What’s the normal range? 

Male: 41% to 50%

Female: 36% to 44%

Who should get a Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test? 

It is done regularly as part of a checkup or to monitor your health if you are being treated for cancer or have an ongoing health condition. The doctor can also order this test if you have any symptoms of a red blood cell disorder, such as anaemia or polycythemia.

Symptoms of anaemia (too few red blood cells) may include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue or weakness 

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Arrhythmia (the problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat)

Symptoms of polycythemia (too many red blood cells) can include:

  • Headache

  • Feeling light-headed or dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Skin symptoms such as itching after a shower or both, burning, or a red face

  • If you have heavy sweating, especially while you are sleeping.

  • Blurred or double vision and blind spots 

  • Bleeding in the gums and heavy bleeding from the small cuts.

Are there any preparations needed for the Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

No special preparation is required. For this test, fasting is not required.

What is the cost of a PCV test?

What is the type of sample required? 

This test requires a blood sample.

Who processes a Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

A healthcare provider, who is also called a phlebotomist, usually performs blood draws, including those for packed cell volume (hematocrit) tests, but any healthcare provider trained in drawing blood can perform this task. The samples are then sent to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the tests on analysers or manually.

What should I expect during my Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

You may expect to experience the following during the blood test or a blood draw:

  • You have to sit comfortably on the chair, and a healthcare provider will check your arms for an easily accessible vein. It is the inner part of your arm on the other side of your elbow.

  • Once the phlebotomist has located a vein, they will clean and disinfect the area with an alcohol swab.

  • Then they will insert a needle into your vein to draw a blood sample. They can feel like a small pinch.

  • After they have inserted the needle, the required amount of blood will be collected in a test tube.

  • When they have collected the required blood for the test, they will remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the pricked site to stop any bleeding.

  • They will apply a band-aid over the pricked site, and the blood collection is finished.

This process takes less than five minutes.

What should I expect after my Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

Once the phlebotomist has collected the blood sample, it will be sent to the laboratory for processing or testing. When the reports are ready, your healthcare provider will share the results with you.

What are the risks of a Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test?

These blood tests are very common, and they don’t carry any significant risks. You can have a slight pain like an ant bite when the needle gets inserted, and a small bruise might develop there.

When can I expect my Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test results?

These test reports are available via email or WhatsApp within 6 hours of the collection of the blood sample.

What do the results of a Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test mean? 


Interpreting test results

Although a hematocrit level is measured as a percentage, lab reports may or may not include a percentage symbol. For example, a test result may simply say 45 rather than 45%.

Normal hematocrit test results depend on several factors, including age, sex, pregnancy status, and the altitude at which the patient lives. The cutoff values for a normal test result called its reference range, may also vary depending on the laboratory or methods used to conduct the test. Because of the many factors that affect hematocrit, it’s important to talk to a doctor for support in understanding your test result.

  • A packed cell volume level that is lower than normal can be a sign that your body does not have enough red blood cells (anaemia). There are several types of anaemia that can be caused by different medical conditions.

  • The body is producing too many white blood cells, which can be caused by certain cancers, including leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or cancers that spread to the bone marrow from other parts of the body, or bone marrow disease.

  • A packed cell volume (hematocrit) level that is higher than normal can be a sign that the body is making too many red blood cells. That can be caused by lung disease, congenital heart disease, heart failure, and polycythemia.

  • Your blood plasma level is too low, which may be caused by dehydration, which is the most common cause of a high hematocrit, and shock.


If the results are not in the normal range, it does not always mean that you have a medical condition that needs treatment. Living at high altitudes where there is less oxygen in the air might cause a high hematocrit. That is because the body responds to low oxygen levels by making more red blood cells so that we get the oxygen that is required for the body. In case of pregnancy, there might be a cause of low packed cell volume. It is because the body has more fluid than normal during pregnancy. It means the percentage of red blood cells is decreased. 

What are normal Packed Cell Volume (Hematocrit) test results?

Male: 41% to 50%

Female: 36% to 44%

Normal ranges can vary slightly among different laboratories. Some of the labs use different measurements or might do tests on the different samples. Speak to your healthcare provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Complete blood count, Jak2 mutation. 

How do I book a Packed Cell Volume (Haematocrit) test at home?

Log on to and submit your details. Our highly trained, professional, and vaccinated eMedics will be at your doorstep within 60 minutes or at the time booked by you.

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