Differential blood test: purpose, procedure and complications



What is a differential blood test?


The blood differential test can detect abnormal or immature cells. It can also diagnose an infection, inflammation, leukemia or a disorder of the immune system.



























Type of white blood cellFunction
neutrophilIt helps stop microorganisms in infections by eating them and destroying them with enzymes.
lymphocyte-Use antibodies to stop the entry of bacteria or viruses (B cell lymphocytes)
-Kills the body's cells if they have been compromised by a virus or cancer cells (T cell lymphocyte)
monocyteit becomes a macrophage in the tissues of the body, eats microorganisms and eliminates dead cells while increasing the strength of the immune system
eosinophilHelps control inflammation, especially active during parasitic infections and allergic reactions, prevents substances or other foreign materials from damaging the body
basophilIt produces enzymes during asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

The blood differential test can detect abnormal or immature cells. It can also diagnose an infection, inflammation, leukemia or a disorder of the immune system.


Why do I need a differential blood test?


Your doctor may order a blood differential test as part of a routine health exam.


A blood differential test is often part of a complete blood count (CBC). A CBC is used to measure the following components of your blood:



  • White blood cells, which help stop infections.

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen

  • Platelets, which help to coagulate the blood.

  • Hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that contains oxygen.

  • hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells and plasma in your blood


A blood differential test is also necessary if the results of your CBC are not within the normal range.


Your doctor may also order a blood differential test if you suspect that you have an infection, inflammation, bone marrow disorder or autoimmune disease.


How is a blood difference test performed?


Your doctor checks your white blood cell levels by testing a sample of your blood. This test is often done in an outpatient clinical laboratory.


The laboratory's health care provider uses a small needle to draw blood from your arm or hand. No special preparation is necessary before the test.


A laboratory specialist places a drop of blood from your sample on a transparent glass slide and rubs it to spread the blood. Then, stain the blood smear with a dye that helps differentiate the types of white blood cells in the sample.


The laboratory specialist then counts the number of each type of white blood cell.


The specialist can perform a manual hemogram, visually identifying the number and size of the cells on the slide. Your specialist may also use an automated blood count. In this case, a machine analyzes its blood cells based on automated measurement techniques.


Automated counting technology uses electrical, laser or photodetection methods to provide a highly accurate image of the size, shape and number of blood cells in a sample.


A 2013 study showed that these methods are very accurate, even in different types of machines that perform automatic blood counts.


Your eosinophil, basophil, and lymphocyte count levels may not be accurate if you are taking corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, and hydrocortisone, at the time of the test. Tell your doctor if you are taking any of these medications before you take the test.


What are the complications associated with a blood differential test?


The risk of complications due to blood collection is very slight. Some people experience mild pain or dizziness.


After the test, a contusion, mild bleeding, an infection, or a bruise (a lump filled with blood under the skin) may develop at the puncture site.


What do the results of the test mean?


Intense exercise and high levels of stress can affect the white blood cell count, especially neutrophil levels.


Some studies show that a vegan diet can make your white blood cell count lower than normal. However, the reason for this is not agreed by the scientists.


An abnormal increase in one type of white blood cell may cause a decrease in another type. Both abnormal results may be due to the same underlying condition.


Laboratory values ​​may vary. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the percentages of white blood cells in healthy people are as follows:



  • 54 to 62 percent neutrophils

  • 25 to 30 percent of lymphocytes

  • 0 to 9 percent monocytes

  • 1 to 3 percent eosinophils

  • 1 percent of basophils


A increase in the percentage of neutrophils in your blood it can mean that you have:



  • Neutrophilia, a disorder of the white blood cells that can be caused by an infection, steroids, smoking or rigorous exercise.

  • An acute infection, especially a bacterial infection.

  • acute stress

  • the pregnancy

  • inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis

  • tissue injury due to traumatism

  • chronic leukemia


A decrease in the percentage of neutrophils in your blood you can indicate:



  • Neutropenia, a disorder of the white blood cells that can be caused by the lack of production of neutrophils in the bone marrow.

  • Aplastic anemia, a decrease in the number of blood cells produced by your bone marrow

  • A severe or widespread bacterial or viral infection.

  • Recent treatments of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.


A increase in the percentage of lymphocytes In your blood, it may be due to:



  • Lymphoma, a cancer of white blood cells that begins in the lymph nodes.

  • a chronic bacterial infection

  • hepatitis

  • Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the cells in your bone marrow.

  • a viral infection, such as mononucleosis, mumps, or measles

  • lymphocytic leukemia


A decrease in the percentage of lymphocytes In your blood it may be the result of:



  • Damage to the bone marrow by chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

  • HIV, tuberculosis or hepatitis.

  • leukemia

  • a serious infection, such as sepsis

  • An autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.


A high percentage of monocytes in your blood can be caused by:



  • Chronic inflammatory disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

  • a parasitic or viral infection

  • a bacterial infection in your heart

  • a vascular disease of collagen, such as lupus, vasculitis, or rheumatoid arthritis

  • certain types of leukemia


A increase in the percentage of eosinophils in your blood you can indicate:



  • eosinophilia, which can be caused by allergic disorders, parasites, tumors or gastrointestinal disorders (GI)

  • an allergic reaction

  • inflammation of the skin, such as eczema or dermatitis

  • a parasitic infection

  • An inflammatory disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.

  • certain cancers


A increase in the percentage of basophils in your blood can be caused by:



  • a severe food allergy

  • inflammation

  • leukemia


What happens after the differential blood test?


Your doctor will probably order more tests if you have a persistent increase or decrease in the levels of any of the types of white blood cells listed.


These tests may include a bone marrow biopsy to determine the underlying cause.


Your doctor will discuss management options with you after identifying the cause of your abnormal results.


They can also order one or more of the following tests to determine the best options for their treatment and follow-up:



  • eosinophil count test

  • flow cytometry, which can indicate if a high white blood cell count is caused by blood cancers

  • immunophenotyping, which can help find the best treatment for a condition caused by an abnormal blood cell count

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which measures biomarkers in the bone marrow or blood cells, especially blood cancer cells


Other tests may be necessary based on the results of the differential test and follow-up tests.


Your doctor has many ways to determine and treat the causes of abnormal blood cell counts, and your quality of life will likely remain the same, if not improved, once you find the cause.



Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/health/blood-differential






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