Prothrombin time (PT) is a blood test that measures how long it takes blood to clot. A prothrombin time test can be used to check for bleeding problems. PT is also used to check whether medicine to prevent blood clots is working.
A PT test may also be called an INR test. INR (international normalized ratio) stands for a way of standardizing the results of prothrombin time tests, no matter the testing method. It lets your doctor understand results in the same way even when they come from different labs and different test methods. In some labs, only the INR is reported and the PT is not reported.
Other blood clotting tests, such as partial thromboplastin time (PTT) and activated clotting time (aPTT), might be used if you take another type of blood-thinning medicine called heparin. These tests measure other clotting factors, or they may be used to see if you are getting the right dose of heparin. Partial thromboplastin time and prothrombin time are often done at the same time to check for bleeding problems or the chance for too much bleeding in surgery.
Blood clotting factors are needed for blood to clot (coagulation). Prothrombin, or factor II, is one of the clotting factors made by the liver. Vitamin K is needed to make prothrombin and other clotting factors. Prothrombin time is an important test because it checks to see if five different blood clotting factors (factors I, II, V, VII, and X) are present. The prothrombin time is made longer by:
Blood-thinning medicine, such as warfarin. Low levels of blood clotting factors. A change in the activity of any of the clotting factors. The absence of any of the clotting factors. Other substances, called inhibitors, that affect the clotting factors. An increase in the use of the clotting factors.
An abnormal prothrombin time is often caused by liver disease or injury or by treatment with blood thinners