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Bleeding Time

Definition

This test measures how long it takes a person to stop bleeding after the skin is cut.

Who is a candidate for the test?

This test is ordered if a healthcare provider suspects problems with blood clotting factors or blood vessels.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by making several small cuts and timing how long it takes for the cuts to stop bleeding.
Usually a blood pressure cuff is placed on the upper arm and inflated. Then two small cuts are made on the lower arm. Each cut is usually about one centimeter long, or less than 1/2 inch, and one millimeter deep. After the shallow cuts are made, the blood pressure cuff is removed. The cuts are blotted every 30 seconds until the bleeding stops and the bleeding time is recorded.

What is involved in preparation for the test?

Specific instructions are available from a healthcare professional.

What do the test results mean?

Bleeding normally stops within 1 to 9 minutes. If it takes longer for the bleeding to stop, there might be a problem.
These problems include:
  • a vascular defect, which is a problem with the blood vessel walls
  • a platelet function defect, which is failure of the platelets to work properly in plugging breaks in blood vessels
  • thrombocytopenia, which is a shortage of platelets in the blood
  • a deficiency or functional abnormality of a clotting factor or factors
Certain medication, such as aspirin and warfarin may also cause prolongations in bleeding time.

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