Is a Bleeding Time Test?
A bleeding time test
determines how quickly your blood clots to stop bleeding. The test
involves making small, superficial cuts on your skin. They’re similar to light
The test is a basic assessment of how well your blood platelets
work -form clots. Platelets are
tiny cell fragments that circulate in your blood. They’re the first cells to
react to a blood vessel injury. They seal off the wound to prevent more blood
Do I Need a Bleeding Time Test?
Most people will never need a bleeding time test. You may need to
have a bleeding test if you’ve been having bleeding that won’t stop, especially
from small incisions, punctures, or cuts.
Your doctor can choose from a number of tests to evaluate your platelet
function. A bleeding time test is a common test to screen patients having prolonged
bleeding times. Abnormal results from a bleeding time test can be a sign that you
need more in-depth testing to find the cause of your prolonged bleeding.
Abnormal results of a bleeding time test could mean you have an acquired platelet function defect, which is
a condition that develop after birth and affects how well your blood platelets
work. Your body may produce too many or too few platelets, or your platelets may
not work properly.
Abnormal results could also indicate the following conditions:
- A blood
vessel defect is any condition that affects how well your blood vessels
transport blood through your body.
- A genetic
platelet function defect is a condition present at birth that affects
how well your platelets function. Hemophilia is one example of this type of
thrombocythemia is a condition in which your bone marrow creates too
is a condition that causes your body to produce too few platelets.
Willebrand’s disease is a hereditary condition that affects how your
blood coagulates, or clots.
Do I Prepare for a Bleeding Time Test?
Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including
prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Some medications, such as aspirin, can affect how well your blood clots.
Your doctor may instruct you to stop taking your medication a few
days before your test. Follow your doctor’s instructions, but don’t stop taking
any medication unless instructed by your doctor.
On the day of your test, wear a short-sleeved shirt so that the
healthcare provider can access your arm.
Is a Bleeding Time Test Performed?
A healthcare provider will perform the test by doing the
- They’ll clean the puncture site with an antiseptic
to minimize the risk of infection.
- They’ll place a pressure cuff around your upper
arm and inflate it.
- Next, they’ll make two small cuts on your lower
arm. These will be deep enough to cause slight bleeding. You might feel a
slight scratch when they make the cuts. The cuts are very shallow and shouldn’t
cause much pain.
- They’ll remove the cuff from your arm.
- Then, using a stopwatch or timer, they’ll blot
the cuts with paper every 30 seconds until the bleeding stops. They’ll record
the time it takes for you to stop bleeding and then bandage the cuts.
Usually, if the cuts continue to bleed after 20 minutes, the
healthcare provider will bandage the cuts and note that the bleeding time was
over 20 minutes.
Are the Risks Associated with a Bleeding Time Test?
Anytime your skin is broken, there’s a risk of excessive bleeding
and infection. Since the purpose of the test is to make you bleed, some
bleeding is a certainty. However, because the test scratches are so shallow,
the risk of excessive bleeding is minimal and complications are extremely rare.
Happens After a Bleeding Time Test?
Learning how long it takes your blood to clot can help your
doctor determine if you have a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia or von
Willebrand’s disease. A chronic disease can cause platelet dysfunction over a
person’s lifetime, but medication and treatment can often manage this particular
Normal bleeding time is between 1 and 8 minutes. Results outside
of that range could indicate a platelet defect and will require further
testing. Your doctor will analyze your test results and discuss any necessary
further testing with you.