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Capillary refill time (CRT) is widely used by health care workers as part of the rapid, structured cardiopulmonary assessment of critically ill patients. Measurement involves the visual inspection of blood returning to distal capillaries after they have been emptied by pressure. It is hypothesized that CRT is a simple measure of alterations in peripheral perfusion. Evidence for the use of CRT in anesthesia is lacking and further research is required, but understanding may be gained from evidence in other fields. In this report, we examine this evidence and factors affecting CRT measurement. Novel approaches to the assessment of CRT are under investigation. In the future, CRT measurement may be achieved using new technologies such as digital videography or modified oxygen saturation probes; these new methods would remove the limitations associated with clinical CRT measurement and may even be able to provide an automated CRT measurement.