Last updated: Thursday, 01, April, 2004

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Item Process
Specimen5 mL blood in lithium heparin or EDTA tube.
MethodImmunoassay or functional assay.
Reference Interval
Method dependent; approximately 3-16 mIU/L.

Occasionally indicated in the differentiation of primary and secondary erythrocytosis, when this is not clear from clinical and other laboratory parameters.

May be used to monitor erythropoietin therapy in chronic renal failure.


Low in polycythaemia vera (PV) and elevated in secondary erythrocytosis.

Although serum erythropoietin is theoretically useful in differentiating primary from secondary polycythaemia, in practice this test is unreliable with a broad overlap between the two groups.

Levels are usually increased in anaemia, but are decreased in the anaemia of chronic renal failure.


Coles PM et al. N Engl J Med 1986; 315: 283-287.

Erslev AJ et al. Eur J Haematol 1989; 43: 367-373.