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    Bleeding time

    Bleeding time is a blood test that looks at how fast small blood vessels in the skin close to stop you from bleeding.

    How the Test is Performed

    A blood pressure cuff is inflated around your upper arm. While the cuff is on your arm, the health care provider makes two small cuts on the lower arm. They are just deep enough to cause a tiny amount of bleeding.

    The blood pressure cuff is immediately deflated. Blotting paper is touched to the cuts every 30 seconds until the bleeding stops. The health care provider records the time it takes for the cuts to stop bleeding.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    Certain medications may change the test results. Always tell your doctor what medications you are taking, even over-the-counter drugs. Drugs that may increase bleeding times include dextran, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and salicylates (including aspirin).

    Your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medicines a few days before the test. Never stop taking medicine without first talking to your doctor.

    How the Test Will Feel

    The tiny cuts are very shallow. Most people say it feels like a skin scratch.

    Why the Test is Performed

    This test helps diagnose bleeding problems.

    Normal Results

    Bleeding normally stops within 1 to 9 minutes. However, values may vary from lab to lab.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    Longer-than-normal bleeding time may be due to:

    • Blood vessel defect
    • Platelet aggregation defect
    • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)

    Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

    • Acquired platelet function defect
    • Congenital platelet function defects
    • Primary thrombocythemia
    • Von Willebrand's disease

    Risks

    There is a very slight risk of infection where the skin is broken. Excessive bleeding is rare.

    References

    Schmaier AH. Laboratory evaluation of hemostatic and thrombotic disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr., Shattil SJ, et al, eds. Hoffman Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:chap 122.

    Schafer A. Hemorrhagic disorders: Approach to the patient with bleeding and thrombosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 178.

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          Review Date: 2/28/2011

          Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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