Mean cell volume (MCV)

Last updated: Wednesday, 28, April, 2004

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Item Process

5 mL blood in EDTA tube.


Part of FBC; measured by most automated and semi-automated instruments (some provide red cell size distribution curves).

Arithmetically, MCV is PCV divided by RCC.

Reference Interval

Some minor variation with method and laboratory.

Term infant cord blood (mean): 106 fL

3 months (mean): 95 fL
1 year: 70-86 fL
3-6 years: 73-89 fL
10-12 years: 77-91 fL

Adult: 80-100 fL.


Guide to investigation of anaemia; blood film should also be requested.


Macrocytosis (high MCV) is found in megaloblastic, aplastic, dyserythropoietic and sideroblastic anaemias; 
myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloma;
liver disease, alcohol excess; chronic hypoxic lung disease;
following renal transplant; and
cytotoxic drug therapy particularly hydroxyurea, therapy with Zidovudine (AZT).

A reticulocytosis is also associated with an increased MCV.

Microcytosis (low MCV) is found in iron deficiency, anaemia of chronic disease, haemoglobinopathies (especially the thalassaemias).

See also Red cell distribution width (RDW).


Dacie JV and Lewis SM. Practical Haematology. 8th ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995.

Bain BJ. Blood Cells - a Practical Guide. 2nd ed. Blackwell Science 1995.