What is being tested?
An INR test measures the time for the blood to clot. It is also known as prothrombin time, or PT. It is used to monitor blood-thinning medicines, which are also known as anticoagulants. The INR, or international normalised ratio, can also be used to check if you have a blood clotting problem.
Prothrombin is a protein produced by the liver. It is one of several proteins, known as clotting factors, that help the blood stay at the right consistency. The INR test measures this clotting factor by measuring how long it takes for the blood to clot.
Why would I need this test?
Blood-thinning medicines such as warfarin are used to prevent blood clots. Warfarin is usually prescribed for people who have atrial fibrillation (where the heart beats unevenly) or who have had artificial valves fitted. How well warfarin is working is measured by how it increases the blood clotting time. So if you are taking warfarin you might need an INR test.
Blood thinning medicines don't actually make the blood thinner. They work by increasing the time it takes for the blood to clot.
Your doctor can use an INR test to make sure the warfarin dose is right for you.
Blood clotting helps the body stop bleeding. But blood clots can also cause strokes or heart attacks. The INR test helps balance the risk of internal bleeding against the risk of blood clotting.
This test can also be used to:
- check for bleeding conditions
- check for blood clotting problems, especially before surgery
- check how well your liver is working
How to prepare for this test
No special preparation is needed. However, many medicines, foods and illnesses can affect this test. So tell your doctor about any medicines and supplements you are taking, as well as any changes in your diet.
Understanding your results
When you are having warfarin treatment, your doctor will probably have a target INR for you. If your INR is too high, it might mean your blood clots too slowly, and there is a risk of bleeding. If your INR is too low, it might mean you have a risk of developing a blood clot.
If you are not having warfarin treatment and your INR is higher than normal, you might need further tests.
About blood testing
Visit our Guide to blood testing to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:
- what to consider before having the test
- what happens during a blood test
- results accuracy
- blood tests cost
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: August 2020