To examine the benefit of determination of the bleeding time as a preoperative screening test, the medical records of all patients who had a prolonged bleeding time during a six-month period were reviewed. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where the bleeding time test is part of the presurgical panel, 1,941 bleeding time determinations were performed during six months. Prolonged bleeding times were recorded in 110 preoperative patients, of whom 83 (75 percent) had bleeding risk factors, including drug ingestion, thrombocytopenia, and azotemia. In these patients, the bleeding time ranged unpredictably from 10 to more than 20 minutes. However, of the 27 patients without apparent risk factors, only two had bleeding times of more than 20 minutes. This small number probably does not justify the routine use of the test In all preoperative patients. Rather, the test should be used selectively for those subjects who, on the basis of history or laboratory evidence, are suspected of being at risk of hemorrhage. Moreover, even In these patients, prolongation of the bleeding time may not always be associated with excessive surgical blood loss.
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