Differentiating iron deficiency anemia from beta thalassemia.
The principle involved is as follows: In iron deficiency, the marrow cannot produce as many RBCs and they are small (microcytic), so the RBC count and the MCV will both be low, and as a result, the index will be greater than 13. Conversely, in thalassemia, which is a disorder of globin synthesis, the number of RBCs produced is normal, but the cells are smaller and more fragile. Therefore, the RBC count is normal, but the MCV is low, so the index will be less than 13.
Mentzer WC Jr.