Osmotic fragility is a blood test to detect whether red blood cells are more likely to break down.
Spherocytosis - osmotic fragility; Thalassemia - osmotic fragility
A blood sample is needed.
In the laboratory, red blood cells are tested with a solution that makes them swell. This determines how fragile they are.
No special preparation is necessary for this test.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
This test is done to detect conditions called hereditary spherocytosis and thalassemia. Hereditary spherocytosis and thalassemia cause red blood cells more fragile than normal.
A normal test result is called a negative result.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
An abnormal result may indicate one of these conditions:
- Hereditary spherocytosis
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another, and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Multiple punctures to locate veins
- Hematoma (blood buildup under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Gallagher PG. Hemolytic anemias: red blood cell membrane and metabolic defects. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 161.
Gallagher PG. Red blood cell membrane disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 45.