partial thromboplastin time

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Related to partial thromboplastin time: Prothrombin time, Activated partial thromboplastin time

Partial Thromboplastin Time



The partial thromboplastin time (PTT) test is a blood test that is done to investigate bleeding disorders and to monitor patients taking an anticlotting drug (heparin).



Blood clotting (coagulation) depends on the action of substances in the blood called clotting factors. Measuring the partial thromboplastin time helps to assess which specific clotting factors may be missing or defective.


Certain surgical procedures and diseases cause blood clots to form within blood vessels. Heparin is used to treat these clots. The PTT test can be used to monitor the effect of heparin on a patient's coagulation system.


Certain medications besides heparin can affect the results of the PPT test. These include antihistamines, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), aspirin, and chlorpromazine (Thorazine).


When a body tissue is injured and begins to bleed, it starts a sequence of clotting factor activities called the coagulation cascade, which leads to the formation of a blood clot. The cascade has three pathways: extrinsic, intrinsic, and common. Many of the thirteen known clotting factors in human blood are shared by both pathways; several are found in only one. The PTT test evaluates the factors found in the intrinsic and common pathways. It is usually done in combination with other tests, such as the prothrombin test, which evaluate the factors of the extrinsic pathway. The combination of tests narrows the list of possible missing or defective factors.
Heparin prevents clotting by blocking certain factors in the intrinsic pathway. The PTT test allows a doctor to check that there is enough heparin in the blood to prevent clotting, but not so much as to cause bleeding. The test is done before the first dose of heparin or whenever the dosage level is changed; and again when the heparin has reached a constant level in the blood. The PTT test is repeated at scheduled intervals.
The PTT test uses blood to which a chemical has been added to prevent clotting before the test begins. About 5 mL of blood are drawn from a vein in the patient's inner elbow region. Collection of the sample takes only a few minutes. The blood is spun in a centrifuge, which separates the pale yellow liquid part of blood (plasma) from the cells. Calcium and activating substances are added to the plasma to start the intrinsic pathway of the coagulation cascade. The partial thromboplastin time is the time it takes for a clot to form, measured in seconds.
The test can be done without activators, but they are usually added to shorten the clotting time, making the test more useful for monitoring heparin levels. When activators are used, the test is called activated partial thromboplastin time or APTT.
Test results can be obtained in less than one hour. The test is usually covered by insurance.


The doctor should check to see if the patient is taking any of the medications that may influence the test results. If the patient is on heparin therapy, the blood sample is drawn one hour before the next dose of heparin.


Aftercare includes routine care of the puncture site. In addition, patients on heparin therapy must be watched for signs of spontaneous bleeding. The patient should not be left alone until the doctor or nurse is sure that bleeding has stopped. Patients should also be advised to watch for bleeding gums, bruising easily, and other signs of clotting problems; to avoid activities that might cause minor cuts or bruises; and to avoid using aspirin.


The patient may develop a bruise or swelling around the puncture site, which can be treated with moist warm compresses. People with coagulation problems may bleed for a longer period than normal.

Normal results

Normal results vary based on the method and activators used. Normal APTT results are usually between 25-40 seconds; PTT results are between 60-70 seconds. APTT results for a patient on heparin should be 1.5-2.5 times normal values. An APTT longer than 100 seconds indicates spontaneous bleeding.

Abnormal results

Increased levels in a person with a bleeding disorder indicate a clotting factor may be missing or defective. Further tests are done to identify the factor involved. Liver disease decreases production of factors, increasing the PTT.
Low levels in a patient on heparin indicate too little heparin is in the blood to prevent clots. High levels indicate too much heparin is present, placing the person at risk of excessive bleeding.



Berry, Brian R., and Stephen Nantel. "Heparin Therapy: Current Regimens and Principles of Monitoring." Postgraduate Medicine 99 (June 1996): 64-76.

Key terms

Activated partial thromboplastin time — Partial thromboplastin time test that uses activators to shorten the clotting time, making it more useful for heparin monitoring.
Clotting factors — Substances in the blood that act in sequence to stop bleeding by forming a clot.
Coagulation — The process of blood clotting.
Coagulation cascade — The sequence of biochemical activities, involving clotting factors, that stop bleeding by forming a clot.
Common pathway — The pathway that results from the merging of the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways. The common pathway includes the final steps before a clot is formed.
Extrinsic pathway — One of three pathways in the coagulation cascade.
Heparin — A medication that prevents blood clots.
Intrinsic pathway — One of three pathways in the coagulation cascade.
Partial thromboplastin time — A test that checks the clotting factors of the intrinsic pathway.
Plasma — The fluid part of blood, as distinguished from blood cells.

ac·ti·vat·ed par·tial throm·bo·plas·tin time (aPTT),

the time needed for plasma to form a fibrin clot after the addition of calcium and a phospholipid reagent; used to evaluate the intrinsic clotting system.

partial thromboplastin time (PTT)

a test for detecting coagulation defects of the intrinsic system by adding activated partial thromboplastin to a sample of test plasma and to a control sample of normal plasma. The time required for the formation of a clot in test plasma is compared with that in the normal plasma. A delayed clotting time suggests an abnormality in one or more factors of the intrinsic system. If indicated, specific factor abnormalities can be identified by exposing the test plasma to a series of plasma samples with known factor deficiencies and observing for coagulation, which occurs only if the test plasma provides the missing clotting factors. PTT is one of the basic tests used to measure specific factor activity and to detect hemophilias. It can be used to monitor liver function and to monitor the activity of the anticoagulant heparin. The normal activated PTT in plasma is 25 to 45 seconds after the addition to the plasma sample of partial thromboplastin reagent and ionized calcium. Also called activated partial thromboplastin time. Compare prothrombin time. See also hemostasis.

partial thromboplastin time

Activated partial thromboplastin time, aPTT A test that evaluates the coagulation cascade by measuring the time required for citrated recalcified plasma to form a clot after the addition of partial thromboplastin; PTT is prolonged in deficiencies of factors V, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, HMW kininogen, lupus anticoagulants–inhibitors, heparin, prekallikrein, prothrombin, fibrinogen, Passovoy factor Normal Standard PTT 68-82 sec; aPTT 32-46 sec

ac·ti·vat·ed par·tial throm·bo·plas·tin time

(aPTT) (ak'ti-vā-tĕd pahr'shăl throm-bō-plas'tin tīm)
The time needed for plasma to form a fibrin clot following the addition of calcium and a phospholipid reagent; used to evaluate the intrinsic clotting system.

partial thromboplastin time (PTT),

n a test for detecting coagulation defects of the intrinsic system by adding activated partial thromboplastin to a sample of test plasma and to a control sample of normal plasma. The time required for the formation of a clot is compared with the normal plasma. It is also used to monitor the activity of heparin in patients who are being treated for a variety of cardiovascular disorders.
References in periodicals archive ?
Enzymatic elimination of heparin from plasma for activated partial thromboplastin time and prothrombin time testing.
Inhibitor screening using the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) or Bethesda based method:
The therapeutic range of heparin therapy: relationship between six activated partial thromboplastin time reagents and two heparin assays.
The most efficient approach is to start with measuring the prothrombin and activated partial thromboplastin times in a laboratory that reflexively performs mixing studies, factor assays, and/or lupus anticoagulant testing, as indicated.
Paradoxic effect of multiple mild coagulation factor deficiencies on the prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time.
Coagnlopathy was identified, with a prothrombin time of 23 seconds and an automated partial thromboplastin time of 44 seconds.
Rapidpoint Coag test cards include the Heparin Management and Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time Tests as well as three different tests for Prothrombin Time (PT).
One hundred sixty-three clinical laboratories provided information about their reference intervals for potassium, calcium, magnesium, thyroid-stimulating hormone, hemoglobin, platelet count, and activated partial thromboplastin time.
In addition, somewhat frightening is the fact that not only the PT but also the other commonly performed clotting test, the "(activated) partial thromboplastin time (PTT or aPTT)," is an in vitro procedure that is frequently interpreted as if the difference between a glass or plastic tube and the vascular endothelium with its many receptors can be ignored.
CSF, cerebrospinal fluid; WBC, white blood cell; PT, prothrombin time; PTT, partial thromboplastin time.
Prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), fibrinogen, and D-dimer assays are part of the conventional routine coagulation panel.
Results for complete blood count, prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, total protein, albumin, serum ferritin, cholesterol, and lactate dehydrogenase were all within normal limits.

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