Neutrophils are a type of cell belonging to the white blood cell (WBC) group. This family is commonly referred to as the “leukocytes,” and their primary function is to protect our bodies from stressors and infection. A mature neutrophil circulating in the bloodstream will have a divided or segmented nucleus. The nucleus of a less mature neutrophil will not be separated but will have a rod-like “band” shape. When our bodies have succumbed to an infection, such as an acute bacterial infection, the total number of mature neutrophils and band neutrophils will increase in response. This process is referred to as a “shift to the left” and indicates an infection. The test ordered to assess band neutrophil concentration is called a “differential blood count,” and it measures all five types of WBCs in the leukocyte group. The results of this test can help to reveal any abnormalities in the WBCs (i.e., an increase in “immature” band neutrophils).
Band neutrophils should account for only 0%-6% of white blood cells.
An elevated concentration of band neutrophils in the blood is always the result of infection or inflammation. In the instance of infection, the source is likely bacterial. The causes of inflammation are varied. Physical stressors like exercise, seizures, anxiety, tobacco use, burn injuries, heart attack, appendicitis, and splenectomy can result in inflammation. There are a few chronic conditions that lead to inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Certain medications (corticosteroids or epinephrine) are known to elevate neutrophils in the blood. Most severely, an inflated level of band neutrophils may be due to chronic myelogenous leukemia—a cancer that starts inside the bones where white blood cells are produced.
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