Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

Last updated: Wednesday, 28, April, 2004

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Item Process
Specimen2 mL blood added to 0.5 mL citrate, or special tube provided by laboratory.
MethodBlood placed in vertical tube; length (in mm) of column of plasma above sedimented red cells at 1 hour is the ESR.
Reference Interval

Child: 2-15 mm in 1 hour

Adult female
17-50 years: 3-19 mm in 1 hour
51-70 years: <20 mm in 1 hour
>70 years: <35 mm in 1 hour

Adult male
17-50 years: 1-10 mm in 1 hour
51-70 years: <14 mm in 1 hour
>70 years: <30 mm in 1 hour


The ESR should not be used to screen asymptomatic patients for the presence of disease.

It is a non-specific indicator of inflammatory and neoplastic disease; C-reactive protein is a more sensitive early indicator of an acute phase response.

Diagnosis and monitoring of temporal arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica.


A normal ESR does not exclude active disease.

The ESR increases with age, and is raised in pregnancy and in anaemia; mild to moderate elevations should be interpreted with caution in these situations.

It is increased in acute and chronic inflammatory disease and in neoplastic disease.

The ESR may be very high (>100 mm in 1 hour) in multiple myeloma, tuberculosis and temporal arteritis.

A low ESR (<1 mm in 1 hour) may be seen in polycythaemia rubra vera and sickle cell disease.

See also  C-reactive protein (CRP) - serum and Acute phase reactants.


ICSH. Br J Haematol 1973; 24: 671-673.

ICSH. Am J Clin Pathol 1977; 68: 505-507.