Partial thromboplastin time

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Partial thromboplastin time
Coagulation diagram.png
Common notation of coagulation times in medical records
MeSH D010314

The partial thromboplastin time (PTT) or activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT or APTT) is a medical test that characterizes blood coagulation. Apart from detecting abnormalities in blood clotting,[1] it is also used to monitor the treatment effects with heparin, a major anticoagulant. PTT is a performance indicator of the efficacy of both the "intrinsic" (now referred to as the contact activation pathway) and the common coagulation pathways. It is used in conjunction with the prothrombin time (PT) which measures the extrinsic pathway. Kaolin cephalin clotting time (KccT) is a historic name for the activated partial thromboplastin time.[2]


Blue Top Vacutainer tube used for PT and PTT blood tests

Prothrombin time is typically analyzed by a medical technologist or a laboratory technician on an automated instrument at 37 °C (as a nominal approximation of normal human body temperature). The test is termed "partial" due to the absence of tissue factor from the reaction mixture.

  • Blood is drawn into a test tube containing oxalate or citrate, molecules which act as an anticoagulant by binding the calcium in a sample. The blood is mixed, then centrifuged to separate blood cells from plasma (as Partial thromboplastin time is most commonly measured using blood plasma).
  • A sample of the plasma is extracted from the test tube and placed into a measuring test tube.
  • Next, an excess of calcium (in a phospholipid suspension) is mixed into the plasma sample (to reverse the anticoagulant effect of the oxalate enabling the blood to clot again).
  • Finally, in order to activate the intrinsic pathway of coagulation, an activator (such as silica, celite, kaolin, ellagic acid) is added, and the time the sample takes to clot is measured optically. Some laboratories use a mechanical measurement, which eliminates interferences from lipemic and icteric samples.


The typical reference range is between 30 seconds and 50 s (depending on laboratory). Shortening of the PTT is considered to have little clinical relevance, but some research indicates that it might increase risk of thromboembolism.[3] Normal PTT times require the presence of the following coagulation factors: I, II, V, VIII, IX, X, XI, & XII. Notably, deficiencies in factors VII or XIII will not be detected with the PTT test. Prolonged APTT may indicate:

To distinguish the above causes, mixing tests are performed, in which the patient's plasma is mixed (initially at a 50:50 dilution) with normal plasma. If the abnormality does not disappear, the sample is said to contain an "inhibitor" (either heparin, antiphospholipid antibodies or coagulation factor specific inhibitors), while if it does disappear a factor deficiency is more likely. Deficiencies of factors VIII, IX, XI and XII and rarely von Willebrand factor (if causing a low factor VIII level) may lead to a prolonged aPTT correcting on mixing studies.

Laboratory findings in various platelet and coagulation disorders (V - T)
Condition Prothrombin time Partial thromboplastin time Bleeding time Platelet count
Vitamin K deficiency or warfarin Prolonged Normal or mildly prolonged Unaffected Unaffected
Disseminated intravascular coagulation Prolonged Prolonged Prolonged Decreased
Von Willebrand disease Unaffected Prolonged or unaffected Prolonged Unaffected
Hemophilia Unaffected Prolonged Unaffected Unaffected
Aspirin Unaffected Unaffected Prolonged Unaffected
Thrombocytopenia Unaffected Unaffected Prolonged Decreased
Liver failure, early Prolonged Unaffected Unaffected Unaffected
Liver failure, end-stage Prolonged Prolonged Prolonged Decreased
Uremia Unaffected Unaffected Prolonged Unaffected
Congenital afibrinogenemia Prolonged Prolonged Prolonged Unaffected
Factor V deficiency Prolonged Prolonged Unaffected Unaffected
Factor X deficiency as seen in amyloid purpura Prolonged Prolonged Unaffected Unaffected
Glanzmann's thrombasthenia Unaffected Unaffected Prolonged Unaffected
Bernard-Soulier syndrome Unaffected Unaffected Prolonged Decreased or unaffected
Factor XII deficiency Unaffected Prolonged Unaffected Unaffected
C1INH deficiency Unaffected Shortened Unaffected Unaffected


The aPTT was first described in 1953 by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explaining the Carolina blue Vacutainer tube top color.[4]


  1. ^ "MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Partial thromboplastin time (PTT)". Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. ^ "KCCT - General Practice Notebook". GP Notebook. Oxbridge Solutions Ltd. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  3. ^ Korte, Wolfgang; Clarke, Susan; Lefkowitz, Jerry B. (January 2000). "Short activated partial thromboplastin times are related to increased thrombin generation and an increased risk for thromboembolism". American journal of clinical pathology 113 (1): 123–7. doi:10.1309/G98J-ANA9-RMNC-XLYU. PMID 10631865. 
  4. ^ Langdell RD, Wagner RH, Brinkhous KM (1953). "Effect of antihemophilic factor on one-stage clotting tests; a presumptive test for hemophilia and a simple one-stage antihemophilic factor assy procedure". J. Lab. Clin. Med. 41 (4): 637–47. PMID 13045017.