Red cell survival

Last updated: Thursday, 25, March, 2004

Rarely used and probably obsolete.

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Item Process

In vivo method requires patient to attend at intervals for 1-4 weeks.


Patient’s red cells labelled with radioactive isotope (51Cr) and re-injected.

Samples collected at regular intervals for up to 4 weeks.

Reference Interval

Red cell half-life: 25-35 days
Mean red cell life span: 120 ± 15 days.


Rarely indicated for the documentation of haemolysis.

Occasionally used to test survival of transfused red cells in face of major problems in compatibility testing.


Reduced red cell survival in the absence of blood loss confirms haemolysis.

Surface counting may also be used to indicate the site of red cell destruction (spleen or liver).


ICSH. Br J Haematol 1971; 21: 241-250.