Capillary Nail Refill Test - What is it?

Capillary Nail Refill Test - What is it?

By: Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor CE Institute LLC, Miami FL

Nails are often used in acute medical situations to determine a person’s health or fitness.  A capillary nail refill test is a quick test done on the nail beds to monitor dehydration, lack of circulation or the amount of blood flow to tissue.  While this is rarely practiced in massage therapy practices, spas or salons, it’s good to know, because it can be applied quickly and can HELP rule out a life-threatening medical circulatory issue. Keep in mind that this is NOT the only test that would be performed in a life-threatening circulatory concern, nor are we trained medical professionals and as such, should not be attempting to practice medicine.  This test is simply something that can be done if you ever find yourself in an acute medical situation and need greater information about the individual who is in distress.

How the Test is Performed

Pressure is applied to the nail bed until it turns white. This is called “blanching” when the blood has been forced out of the tissue: in this case, the blood has been forced out by squeezing. Once the tissue has blanched, pressure is removed and the time it takes for blood to return to the tissue is measured. Return of blood is indicated by the nail turning back to a pink color.  If there is good circulation, a pink color should return to the nail bed in less than 2 seconds after pressure is removed.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Blanch times that are greater than 2 seconds may indicate: dehydration, shock, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), hypothermia, or blood-circulation disruption.

How to Prepare for the Test

Remove colored nail polish before this test.  The test should only use minor pressure to the bed of your nail. The pressure should not cause discomfort.

Why the Test is Performed

Tissues need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried to various parts of the body by the blood (vascular) system.  This test measures how well the vascular system works in your hands and feet—the parts of your body that are farthest from the heart.

To learn more, please register for quality, affordable, professional training at:

This BLOG was written by Selena Belisle, the Founder of CE Institute LLC in Miami FL.  She is a retired professional athlete and has been practicing massage therapy for over 30 years.  Selena is an approved CE Provider with NCBTMB & the Florida Board of Massage.  She now teaches full time for the Complementary and Alternative Health Care Industries. You can learn more about Selena’s training and CE classes at

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