Thrombin time

Last updated
Thrombin time
Coagulation in vivo.png
Blood coagulation pathways in vivo showing the central role played by thrombin
Other namesTCT
MeSH D013918

The thrombin time (TT), also known as the thrombin clotting time (TCT) is a blood test that measures the time it takes for a clot to form in the plasma of a blood sample containing anticoagulant, after an excess of thrombin has been added. [1] It is used to diagnose blood coagulation disorders and to assess the effectiveness of fibrinolytic therapy. This test is repeated with pooled plasma from normal patients. The difference in time between the test and the 'normal' indicates an abnormality in the conversion of fibrinogen (a soluble protein) to fibrin, an insoluble protein. [2]


The thrombin time compares the rate of clot formation to that of a sample of normal pooled plasma. Thrombin is added to the samples of plasma. If the time it takes for the plasma to clot is prolonged, a quantitative (fibrinogen deficiency) or qualitative (dysfunctional fibrinogen) defect is present. [3] In blood samples containing heparin, a substance derived from snake venom called batroxobin [4] (formerly reptilase) is used instead of thrombin. Batroxobin has a similar action to thrombin but unlike thrombin it is not inhibited by heparin. [1]

Normal values for thrombin time are 12 to 14 seconds. [5] If batroxobin is used, the time should be between 15 and 20 seconds. Thrombin time can be prolonged by heparin, fibrin degradation products, and fibrinogen deficiency or abnormality.

Test procedure

After separating the plasma from the whole blood by centrifugation, bovine thrombin is added to the sample of plasma. Clot formation is detected optically or mechanically by a coagulation instrument. The time between the addition of the thrombin and the clot formation is recorded as the thrombin clotting time.[ citation needed ]

Specimen requirements

Whole blood is taken with either citrate or oxalate additive (if using the vacutainer system, this is a light blue top tube). As with other coagulation assays, the tube must not be over- or under-filled in order to ensure the correct anticoagulant-to-blood ratio: one part anticoagulant per nine parts blood.[ citation needed ]

Reference ranges

The reference ranges of the thrombin clotting time is generally <22 seconds, [6] and from 14 to 16 seconds. [5] Laboratories usually calculate their own ranges, based on the method used and the results obtained from healthy individuals from the local population. Separate ranges are used for infants. [7]


Blood samples that are more than eight hours old can give inaccurate results when tested. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Thrombus blood clot

A thrombus, colloquially called a blood clot, is the final product of the blood coagulation step in hemostasis. There are two components to a thrombus: aggregated platelets and red blood cells that form a plug, and a mesh of cross-linked fibrin protein. The substance making up a thrombus is sometimes called cruor. A thrombus is a healthy response to injury intended to prevent bleeding, but can be harmful in thrombosis, when clots obstruct blood flow through healthy blood vessels.

Coagulation Process by which blood changes from a liquid to a gel, forming a blood clot

Coagulation, also known as clotting, is the process by which blood changes from a liquid to a gel, forming a blood clot. It potentially results in hemostasis, the cessation of blood loss from a damaged vessel, followed by repair. The mechanism of coagulation involves activation, adhesion and aggregation of platelets, as well as deposition and maturation of fibrin.

Disseminated intravascular coagulation pathological process characterized by the widespread activation of the clotting cascade that results in the formation of blood clots in the small blood vessels throughout the body

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition in which blood clots form throughout the body, blocking small blood vessels. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, leg pain, problems speaking, or problems moving parts of the body. As clotting factors and platelets are used up, bleeding may occur. This may include blood in the urine, blood in the stool, or bleeding into the skin. Complications may include organ failure.

Fibrinogen Soluble protein complex in blood plasma and involved in clot formation

Fibrinogen is a glycoprotein complex, made in the liver, that circulates in the blood of all vertebrates. During tissue and vascular injury, it is converted enzymatically by thrombin to fibrin and then to a fibrin-based blood clot. Fibrin clots function primarily to occlude blood vessels to stop bleeding. Fibrin also binds and reduces the activity of thrombin. This activity, sometimes referred to as antithrombin I, limits clotting. Fibrin also mediates blood platelet and endothelial cell spreading, tissue fibroblast proliferation, capillary tube formation, and angiogenesis and thereby promotes revascularization and wound healing.

Thrombin Enzyme in humans

Thrombin is a serine protease, an enzyme that, in humans, is encoded by the F2 gene. Prothrombin is proteolytically cleaved to form thrombin in the clotting process. Thrombin in turn acts as a serine protease that converts soluble fibrinogen into insoluble strands of fibrin, as well as catalyzing many other coagulation-related reactions.

Fibrinolysis is a process that prevents blood clots from growing and becoming problematic. This process has two types: primary fibrinolysis and secondary fibrinolysis. The primary type is a normal body process, whereas secondary fibrinolysis is the breakdown of clots due to a medicine, a medical disorder, or some other cause.

Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) is a class of anticoagulant medications. They are used in the prevention of blood clots and treatment of venous thromboembolism and in the treatment of myocardial infarction.

Prothrombin time Prothrombin time

The prothrombin time (PT) – along with its derived measures of prothrombin ratio (PR) and international normalized ratio (INR) – are assays evaluating the extrinsic pathway and common pathway of coagulation. This blood test is also called protime INR and PT/INR. They are used to determine the clotting tendency of blood, in the measure of warfarin dosage, liver damage, and vitamin K status. PT measures the following coagulation factors: I (fibrinogen), II (prothrombin), V (proaccelerin), VII (proconvertin), and X.

D-dimer is a fibrin degradation product, a small protein fragment present in the blood after a blood clot is degraded by fibrinolysis. It is so named because it contains two D fragments of the fibrin protein joined by a cross-link.

Partial thromboplastin time Test for coagulation of the blood

The partial thromboplastin time (PTT) or activated partial thromboplastin time is a blood test that characterizes coagulation of the blood. A historical name for this measure is the kaolin-cephalin clotting time (KCCT), reflecting kaolin and cephalin as materials historically used in the test. Apart from detecting abnormalities in blood clotting, partial thromboplastin time is also used to monitor the treatment effect of heparin, a widely prescribed drug that reduces blood's tendency to clot.

Mixing studies are tests performed on blood plasma of patients or test subjects to distinguish factor deficiencies from factor inhibitors, such as lupus anticoagulant, or specific factor inhibitors, such as antibodies directed against factor VIII. The basic purpose of these tests is to determine the cause of prolongation of Prothrombin Time (PT), Partial Thromboplastin Time, or sometimes of thrombin time (TT). Mixing studies take advantage of the fact that factor levels that are 50 percent of normal should give a normal Prothrombin time (PT) or Partial thromboplastin time (PTT) result. Factor deficient plasmas are used in mixing studies. Plasma with known factor deficiencies are commercially available but are very expensive, so they are often prepared in the laboratory and can then be used for mixing experiments.

Lupus anticoagulant is an immunoglobulin that binds to phospholipids and proteins associated with the cell membrane. Its name is a misnomer, as it is actually a prothrombotic antibody. Lupus anticoagulant in living systems cause an increase in inappropriate blood clotting. The name derives from their properties in vitro, as these antibodies increase laboratory coagulation tests such as the aPTT. Investigators speculate that the antibodies interfere with phospholipids used to induce in vitro coagulation. In vivo, the antibodies are thought to interact with platelet membrane phospholipids, increasing adhesion and aggregation of platelets, which accounts for the in vivo prothrombotic characteristics.

Dilute Russells viper venom time

Dilute Russell's viper venom time (dRVVT) is a laboratory test often used for detection of lupus anticoagulant (LA).

Thromboelastography (TEG) is a method of testing the efficiency of blood coagulation. It is a test mainly used in surgery and anesthesiology, although increasingly used in resuscitations in Emergency Departments, intensive care units, and labor and delivery suites. More common tests of blood coagulation include prothrombin time (PT,INR) and partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) which measure coagulation factor function, but TEG also can assess platelet function, clot strength, and fibrinolysis which these other tests cannot.

Congenital afibrinogenemia is a rare, genetically inherited blood fibrinogen disorder in which the blood does not clot normally due to the lack of fibrinogen, a blood protein necessary for coagulation. This disorder is autosomal recessive, meaning that two unaffected parents can have a child with the disorder. The lack of fibrinogen expresses itself with excessive and, at times, uncontrollable bleeding.

Antithrombin III deficiency is a deficiency of antithrombin III. This deficiency may be inherited or acquired. It is a rare hereditary disorder that generally comes to light when a patient suffers recurrent venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, and repetitive intrauterine fetal death (IUFD). Hereditary antithrombin deficiency results in a state of increased coagulation which may lead to venous thrombosis. Inheritance is usually autosomal dominant, though a few recessive cases have been noted. The disorder was first described by Egeberg in 1965. The causes of acquired antithrombin deficiency are easier to find than the hereditary deficiency.

Thromboelastometry (TEM), previously named rotational thromboelastography (ROTEG) or rotational thromboelastometry (ROTEM), is an established viscoelastic method for hemostasis testing in whole blood. It is a modification of traditional thromboelastography (TEG). TEM investigates the interaction of coagulation factors, their inhibitors, anticoagulant drugs, blood cells, specifically platelets, during clotting and subsequent fibrinolysis. The rheological conditions mimic the sluggish flow of blood in veins.

Thrombodynamics test is a method for blood coagulation monitoring and anticoagulant control. This test is based on imitation of coagulation processes occurring in vivo, is sensitive both to pro- and anticoagulant changes in the hemostatic balance. Highly sensitive to thrombosis.

Kaolin clotting time (KCT) is a sensitive test to detect lupus anticoagulants. There is evidence that suggests it is the most sensitive test for detecting lupus anticoagulants. It can also detect factor VIII inhibitors but is sensitive to unfractionated heparin as well.

The haemostatic system involves the interaction of proteins in the blood, the blood vessel wall and the flow of blood to control bleeding and blood clotting. Developmental Haemostasis is a term that represents the maturation of the haemostatic system from birth to adulthood. There are differences in the concentration, structure and activity of many proteins involved in blood clotting. These changes play an important role in physiological development and are important in providing appropriate diagnosis and treatment of bleeding and clotting disorders. The age-specific differences in the blood clotting system may contribute to the fact that children are less prone to developing thrombosis compared to adults.


  1. 1 2 David Lillicrap; Nigel Key; Michael Makris; Denise O'Shaughnessy (2009). Practical Hemostasis and Thrombosis. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 53. ISBN   978-1-4051-8460-1.
  2. Popović M, Smiljanić K, Dobutović B, Syrovets T, Simmet T, Isenović ER (January 2012). "Thrombin and vascular inflammation". Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 359 (1–2): 301–13. doi:10.1007/s11010-011-1024-x. PMID   21858738. S2CID   14313728.
  3. Hatton, Chris (2008). Haematology (Lecture Notes). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. p.  156. ISBN   978-1-4051-8050-4.
  4. Batroxobin factsheet
  5. 1 2 Hoffbrand, A. V. (2002). Essential haematology. Oxford: Blackwell Science. p. 248. ISBN   978-0-632-05153-3.
  6. Gastineau DA, Gertz MA, Daniels TM, Kyle RA, Bowie EJ (June 1991). "Inhibitor of the thrombin time in systemic amyloidosis: a common coagulation abnormality". Blood. 77 (12): 2637–40. doi: 10.1182/blood.V77.12.2637.2637 . PMID   1904284.
  7. Practical Haemostasis
  8. Heil W, Grunewald R, Amend M, Heins M (June 1998). "Influence of time and temperature on coagulation analytes in stored plasma". Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. 36 (7): 459–62. doi:10.1515/CCLM.1998.077. PMID   9746270. S2CID   23594097.