In my critically ill patient with infection, is capillary refill time greater than 2 seconds indicative of septic shock?

The data on the performance of capillary refill time (CRT) in adults is quite limited and what’s available does not suggest that the commonly cited 2 seconds cutoff is useful in assessing peripheral perfusion in critically ill adults1,2.

For example, a large study involving 1000 healthy adults reported that 45% of participants had a CRT > 2 seconds3.  Age also affects CRT with its 95 percentile upper limits reaching 4.5 seconds among healthy adults >60 y old3

Among patients with septic shock, a baseline median CRT of 5 seconds has been reported.  Values <5.0 seconds within 6 hours of treatment of septic shock has also been highly associated with successful resuscitation even before normalization of lactate levels4.

For these reasons, if CRT is used as a measure of peripheral perfusion in critically ill adults, a cut off of 5 seconds, not 2 seconds, may be more appropriate. But just like many other diagnostic tests, CRT should never be interpreted in isolation from other clinical parameters. 

References

  1. Lima A, Bakker J. Clinical Assessment of peripheral circulation. Critical Care 2015:21: 226-31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25827585  
  2. Lewin J, Maconochie I. Capillary refill time in adults. Emerg Med J 2008;25:325-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18499809
  3. Anderson B, Kelly AM, Kerr D, et al. Impact of patient and environmental factors on capillary refill time in adults. Am J Emerg Med 2008;26:62-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18082783
  4. Hernandez G, Pedreros C, Veas E, et al. Evolution of peripheral vs metabolic perfusion parameters during septic shock resuscitation. A clinical-physiologic study. J Crit Care 2012;27:283-288.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21798706
In my critically ill patient with infection, is capillary refill time greater than 2 seconds indicative of septic shock?

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