Blood Pressure…Ooohhh Yeeaahhh!!! November 13 2014

In a few of our past blog entries we have discussed the merits of automatic blood pressure testing versus manual blood pressure testing. Whatever option you choose, it’s important to know that there are suggested best practices for taking blood pressure. There are many things that contribute to the accuracy of a blood pressure reading and keeping them all in mind can be a task.  However, by following a few simple steps, you can all but ensure that your reading is as close to accurate as possible.

Step 1: Set the Mood

And we don’t mean dimming the lights and putting on soft jazz.  We mean, to get the most accurate reading, the patient needs to be relatively at rest by sitting still for 3 -5 minutes, in a comfortable, supporting chair. Make sure their feet aren’t dangling unsupported. Make sure they are quiet, and that the room is a comfortable temperature. You may also wish to evaluate if they seem stressed or not, as stress can throw off readings pretty badly. Basically, make sure the patient is comfortable.

Step 2: Remove those Clothes

Woaaaahhh….we are only talking about your shirt sleeve!  It doesn’t seem like it would do a lot, but having the patient’s clothing under the blood pressure cuff can throw off systolic pressure readings by as much as 50mmHg. Have the patient roll up their sleeve, and make sure you are putting the cuff in an unobstructed area, directly on the arm.

Step 3: And Get It On

Come on…we mean get on the blood pressure cuff!  One of the easiest factors you can control is also one of the easiest to overlook. Blood pressure cuffs have an arm circumference range they work best for...in other words, there aren’t just one size fits all for the cuff.  Using them outside of that range can seriously sway a test reading. This works in either direction, whether the cuff is too small or too large. It seems like this would be an easy thing to notice, but it can be quite difficult. If there is any doubt, take the time to measure the patient’s arm circumference, so you can get the most accurate reading.

There are other factors that can affect the test, but those are mostly patient controlled. There will always be some margin of error, but using these simple steps, you can do your best to minimize it and get a more accurate reading than not.