Variability of Capillary Refill Time among Physician Measurements

David C. Sheridan, Steven D. Baker, Susan A. Kayser, David Jones, Matthew L. Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background The assessment of capillary refill time (CRT) is a common physical examination technique. However, despite its importance and its widespread use, there is little standardization, which can lead to inaccurate assessments. Objective In this article, we assessed how different physicians estimate CRT. We hypothesized that when different physicians are presented with the same recordings of CRT, clinicians will, on average, provide different CRT estimates. Methods Using recordings of different fingertip compressions, physicians assessed and documented when capillary refill had returned to normal. Videos were recorded of the fingertips only, with no other identifying markers or subject characteristics provided. Videos were shown at one-quarter speed to allow time for recognition and response to the capillary refill. The primary outcome was physician estimates of CRT for each video recording. Results An analysis of variance regression revealed significant differences in physician estimates of CRT when examining the same CRT videos from 34 subjects. Further regression analyses reveal the importance of controlling for the physician that is examining the patient when predicting a patient's CRT. Conclusions Results indicate that some physicians gave, on average, slower CRT estimates, whereas others gave, on average, faster CRT estimates. Objective approaches and innovations in assessment of capillary refill have the potential to increase the diagnostic accuracy of this important clinical examination finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e51-e57
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • capillary refill
  • dehydration
  • perfusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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