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Capillary nail refill test

Definition

The capillary nail refill test is a quick test performed on the nail beds to monitor dehydration and the amount of blood flow to tissue.

Alternative Names

Nail blanch test; Capillary refill time

How the test is performed

Pressure is applied to the nail bed until it turns white, indicating that the blood has been forced from the tissue. This is called blanching. Once the tissue has blanched, pressure is removed.

While the patient holds their hand above their heart, the health care provider measures the time it takes for blood to return to the tissue, indicated by a pink color returning to the nail.

How to prepare for the test

Remove colored nail polish before this test.

How the test will feel

There will be minor pressure to the bed of your nail, which should not cause discomfort.

Why the test is performed

Tissues need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried to various parts of the body by the blood (vascular) system.

This test measures how well the vascular system works in your hands and feet -- the parts of your body that are farthest from the heart.

Normal Values

If there is good blood flow to the nail bed, a pink color should return in less than 2 seconds after pressure is removed.

What abnormal results mean

Blanch times that are greater than 2 seconds may indicate:

What the risks are

No risks are associated with this test.

Special considerations

References

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    Review Date: 5/7/2009

    Review By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. 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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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