Written by attorney Todd Nathan Hendrickson

What is a CBC and What Can It Tell You?

In evaluating a medical malpractice case, your attorney will certainly look at lab results and test. One that is certain to be reviewed in any infection case is the CBC.

A complete blood count, or CBC, can provide you with many pieces of information that may show that an infection diagnosis was missed or delayed. The first thing that may jump off the page is an elevated white blood cell count (WBC). White blood cells help the body fight disease and infection. A normal WBC is 3,500 to 10,500 cells per microliter. You don’t have to remember that range, or in fact the normal ranges of most readings, as almost every CBC report will indicate the normal range and whether the count is high or low.

The body generates increased WBCs (leukocytes) in response to disease or infection. A slight elevation in WBC following a surgical procedure may not be a dire sign, but any count over 12,000 should be looked at with suspicion. Counts higher than 15,000 are highly suspicious for infection.

White blood cells actually consist of five different cells: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Most blood counts will show these as percentages and they will total 100%. Again, the count should indicate normal ranges and whether the counts are high or low. Elevated lymphocytes are particularly good indicators of active infection.

BUN, or blood nutria nitrogen, is another measure found in a CBC. BUN is a measure of nitrogen in the blood and is an indicator of renal function. An elevated BUN can be an indication of shock, hypovelemia, or gastrointestinal bleeding, among other things.

Elevated WBC and BUN together with any other sign normally associated with infection should place a post-operative infection, bowel or bladder perforation at the top of the physician’s differential diagnosis and should be addressed emergently.

Hemoglobin and hematocrit are measures of your red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen to tissues. Hematocrit is a measure of the volume of red blood cells compared to total blood volume. Low measures of hemoglobin or hematocrit indicate anemia which may be an indication of undiagnosed internal bleeding.

This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding what you can learn from a CBC. In the presence of severe complications or injury following a general surgical procedure, the CBC should always be one of the first things your attorney should discuss with an appropriate expert.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Avvo personal injury email series

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer