Lupus erythematosus test

Alternative names
LE cell test

Definition
LE (lupus erythematosus) cell test measures the presence of a special cell found mostly in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

How the test is performed

Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and a band or blood pressure cuff is placed around the upper arm to cause the veins below the band to swell.

A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore circulation. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants and young children:
The area is cleaned with antiseptic and punctured with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. A bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any continued bleeding.

How to prepare for the test
For infants and children, the preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following:

     
  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed
The LE cell test is used primarily to diagnose systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Normal Values
No presence of LE cells is normal.

What abnormal results mean
The LE cell test is used primarily to diagnose systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). About 50 to 75% of patients with SLE have a positive test. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and drug sensitivities (see drug-induced lupus erythematosus) also exhibit a positive LE cell test.

What the risks are

     
  • Excessive bleeding  
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed  
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)  
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)  
  • Multiple punctures to locate veins

Special considerations

The LE cell test is now only rarely performed and mostly has historic significance.

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.