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ESR

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate; Sed rate; Sedimentation rate

ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It is commonly called a "sed rate."

It is a test that indirectly measures how much inflammation is in the body.

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How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. Most of the time, blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The blood sample is sent to a lab.

The test measures how fast red blood cells (called erythrocytes) fall to the bottom of a tall, thin tube.

How to Prepare for the Test

There are no special steps needed to prepare for this test.

How the Test will Feel

You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.

Why the Test is Performed

Reasons why a "sed rate" may be done include:

This test may also be used to monitor whether an illness is responding to treatment.

This test can be used to monitor inflammatory diseases or cancer. It is not used to diagnose a specific disorder.

However, the test is useful for detecting and monitoring:

Normal Results

For adults (Westergren method):

For children (Westergren method):

Note: mm/hr = millimeters per hour

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal ESR may help with a diagnosis, but it does not prove that you have a certain condition. Other tests are almost always needed.

An increased ESR rate may be due to:

The immune system helps protect the body against harmful substances. An autoimmune disorder is when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. ESR is often higher than normal in people with an autoimmune disorder.

Common autoimmune disorders include:

Very high ESR levels occur with less common autoimmune disorders, including:

An increased ESR rate may be due to some infections, including:

Lower-than-normal levels occur with:

Related Information

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Necrotizing vasculitis
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Heart failure - overview
Polycythemia - newborn
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Sickle cell disease
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Autoimmune hepatitis
Endometritis

References

Marshall SE. Immunological factors in disease. In: Walker BR, Colledge NR, Ralston SH, Penman ID, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 4.

Pisetsky DS. Laboratory testing in the rheumatic diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 257.

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Review Date: 5/21/2017  

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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