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What is a Bleeding Time test? 

A bleeding time test, also known as clotting time test, is a type of coagulation test that is used for evaluating how quickly your blood clots to stop any form of bleeding. It can also be described as a medical test that is performed to measure how fast the small blood vessels present in skin stop bleeding.

  1. Why is a Bleeding Time test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Bleeding Time test?
  3. How is Bleeding Time test performed?
  4. Bleeding Time test results and normal range

The primary purpose of this test is to determine how quickly a blood sample clots. It provides an assessment of how well blood platelets work. Platelets are cells present in the blood and play an important role in preventing excessive bleeding at the sight of a skin injury. 

Bleeding time test is usually performed only in individuals who report that their bleeding does not stop easily and wounds take long to heal. This test is crucial in diagnosing any form of clotting disorders that can cause excessive bleeding and be life-threatening. 

If results from a bleeding time test show some abnormality, it will prompt the doctor to conduct in-depth testing to determine the exact cause of prolonged bleeding.

No preparations are required for bleeding time test. However, it is very important to mention any medications and vitamins or mineral supplements that you may be taking before the test is performed, since they may alter test results. 

Do not stop taking any medications on your own. It is recommended to wear a short sleeve shirt when going for the test so the healthcare provider can easily access the arm for collecting the blood sample.

Bleeding time test is performed in the following way:

  • The site from where the blood is to be drawn is cleaned with an antiseptic to reduce the risk of infection
  • A pressure cuff is tied and inflated around the upper arm
  • Two small cuts are made on the lower arm to cause slight bleeding. The cuts are very shallow and are less likely to cause any pain
  • The cuff from the upper arm is removed 
  • With the help of a stopwatch or a timer, time taken for the bleeding to stop is recorded However, the healthcare practitioner will blot the cuts every 30 seconds to stop the bleeding 

Due to the cuts made on the skin, there is a slight risk of excessive bleeding or infection; however, with proper care and bandaging, bleeding should stop on time, and there should be a minimum risk of infection.

Bleeding due to superficial cuts should stop within 1 to 9 minutes. This serves as a normal result. The values may vary between laboratories due to minor differences in testing procedures. 

However, abnormal results with longer-than-normal bleeding time could be due to multiple reasons, such as:

  • A defect in blood vessels affecting their efficiency to circulate blood throughout the body
  • A genetic defect in platelet function 
  • Primary thrombocythemia, in which, bone marrow produces excessive platelets
  • Thrombocytopenia, in which, the body produces very few platelets
  • Von Willebrand’s disease, a hereditary condition that affects the blood clotting mechanism of the body

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational perspective and is in no way a substitute for medical advice from a qualified doctor. 

References

  1. Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Bleeding time, ivy - blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:181-266.
  2. Pai M. Laboratory evaluation of hemostatic and thrombotic disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 129.
  3. Pagana, K. D., Pagana, T. J., and Pagana, T. N. (© 2015). Mosby's Diagnostic & Laboratory Test Reference 12th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 9-10.
  4. Hardean E. Achneck et al. Pathophysiology of Bleeding and Clotting in the Cardiac Surgery Patient: From Vascular Endothelium to Circulatory Assist Device Surface. Circulation: November 16, 2010 Vol 122, Issue 20. © 2010 American Heart Association, Inc.
  5. Benioff Children's Hospital [internet]: University of California, San Francisco; Bleeding Time
  6. Russeau AP, Manna B. Bleeding Time. [Updated 2019 Jan 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan
  7. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Bleeding time

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