What is a target cell?

By William Aird

A target cell is a red cell with centrally located disk of hemoglobin surrounded by an area of pallor with an outer rim of hemoglobin adjacent to the cell membrane giving the cell the appearance of a bull’s eye or shooting target. Seen in liver disease (macrocytic targets), iron deficiency anemia, and thalassemia (microcytic target cells). Target cells may also be seen in hemoglobin C and E disease, and following splenectomy.

Peripheral smear showing multiple target cells (100x, oil)