Extremely Elevated Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rates: Associations With Patients’ Diagnoses, Demographic Characteristics, and Comorbidities

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To study associations between extreme erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) elevations (≥100 mm/h) and diseases, age, sex, race, Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), and C-reactive protein (CRP) level.

Patients and Methods

This was a retrospective cohort study of 4807 patients with extreme ESR values examined at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, from January 1, 2002, through December 31, 2011. Independent variables included diseases (infection, autoimmune, malignancy, renal disease, or miscellaneous), subcategories of diseases, patient demographic characteristics (age, sex, and race), CRP level, and CCI. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to assess comparisons of ESR between patients with and without disease as well as relationships between extreme ESR values and demographic characteristics of patients within disease categories. Associations between ESR and CRP level were determined using the Pearson correlation coefficient.


The leading diagnosis associated with extreme ESR elevations (n [%]) was infection (1932 [40]), followed by autoimmune (1839 [38]) and malignancy (1736 [36]) (P<.01). Extreme elevations in ESR varied by sex, with higher ESRs in men (mean, 117±13.3 mm/h) than in women (mean, 115.9±12.5 mm/h) (P=.008). Extreme ESR elevations correlated inversely with the CCI (P=.008) and did not correlate with the CRP level. There were no correlations between extreme elevations in ESR and age or race.


We found that almost all patients have an identifiable etiology for extreme ESR elevations and that infection is the most common disease association. Unlike previous research, we identified higher ESRs in men than in women and no associations with age, race, and comorbid illness. These findings may enhance the diagnostic evaluation of patients with extreme ESR elevations.

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