Top of the page
The sedimentation rate (sed rate) blood test measures how quickly red blood cells (erythrocytes) settle in a test tube in one hour. The more red cells that fall to the bottom of the test tube in one hour, the higher the sed rate. This test may also be called an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
When inflammation is present in the body, certain proteins cause red blood cells to stick together and fall more quickly than normal to the bottom of the tube. These proteins are produced by the liver and the immune system under many abnormal conditions, such as an infection, an autoimmune disease, or cancer.
There are many possible causes of a high sedimentation rate. For this reason, a sed rate is done with other tests to confirm a diagnosis. After a diagnosis has been made, a sed rate can be done to help check on the disease or see how well treatment is working.
A sed rate test is done to:
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
The test will take a few minutes.
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.
Some diseases that cause inflammation don't increase the sed rate, so a normal sed rate doesn't always rule out a disease.
There are many possible causes of a high sed rate. For this reason, the test is done with other tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Results are usually available right away.
High sed rates may be caused by:
Low values may be caused by:
Adaptation Date: 2/24/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.