Fragmented Red Blood Cells

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Red Blood Cell (RBC) Morphology. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Fragmented Red Blood Cells

Red cell fragments are formed when fibrin strands come in contact with circulating red cells. The strands cut a small piece from the original cell. Several descriptive names have been used for fragmented red cells, depending on the resulting shape of the fragment. These include prekeratocyte (blister cell), keratocyte (horn cell or helmet cell), and schistocyte (more of a catch-all term).

Schistocytes can be seen in disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, glomerulonephritis, and hemolytic anemia resulting from mechanical trauma to the red blood cells (such as severe burns).