Capillary refill

Capillary refill time (CRT) is defined as the time taken for color to return to an external capillary bed after pressure is applied to cause blanching.[1] It can be measured by holding a hand higher than heart-level and pressing the soft pad of a finger or fingernail until it turns white, then taking note of the time needed for the color to return once pressure is released.[2] Normal capillary refill time is usually less than 2 seconds. In newborn infants, capillary refill time can be measured by pressing on the sternum for five seconds with a finger or thumb, and noting the time needed for the color to return once the pressure is released. The upper normal limit for capillary refill in newborns is 3 seconds.[3] Capillary refill time can also be assessed in animals by pressing on their gums as opposed to the sternum which is generally covered with fur or inaccessible.

A prolonged capillary refill time may be a sign of shock and can also indicate dehydration and decreased peripheral perfusion.[4] Prolonged capillary refill time may also suggest peripheral artery disease.[2] It is generally accepted that the test is affected by many different external factors and therefore should not be relied upon as a universal diagnostic measure.[1]

See also


  1. King, D; Morton, R; Bevan, C (Nov 13, 2013). "How to use capillary refill time". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Education and Practice Edition. 99 (3): 111–116. doi:10.1136/archdischild-2013-305198. PMID 24227793.
  2. Capillary nail refill test
  3. Krzysztof S Strozik; Clarissa H Pieper; Jacques Roller (1997-01-13). "Capillary refilling time in newborn babies: normal values". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 76 (3): F193–F196. doi:10.1136/fn.76.3.F193. PMC 1720653.
  4. David C. Dugdale, III, MD (2009-05-07). "Capillary nail refill test". Retrieved 2010-11-27.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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