President at Bowen Medical
IS BLOOD PRESSURE READING JUST A NUMBER?
One of the most critical factors in patient assessment is the blood pressure reading. If the accuracy of the blood pressure reading is compromised then the ability for accurate assessment of the patient is also compromised.
For many years we were exposed to cross contamination due to microbe laden blood pressure cuffs. The medical industry has solved this dilemma through the use of cheap disposable blood pressure cuffs. New research questioning the accuracy of these cuffs is now available.
A major teaching hospital was concerned about the cross-contamination of their manufacturer-validated cuffs. They substituted a washable cuff. In their hypertensive unit they documented that 33% of their patients with poorly controlled hypertension were wrongly diagnosed as normotensive due to lack of accuracy of the washable cuffs. One third of the entire patients in this hypertensive unit would not be given the proper medication to control their hypertension had they not discovered the compromise in accuracy.1
The most comprehensive research to date on accuracy of various types of cuffs compared eight different types of cuffs made of coated woven and non-woven fabrics. There were variations of up to 27mmHg for systolic readings and 17mmHg for diastolic reading.2
Using the American Heart standards for blood pressure- a person with an accurate blood pressure reading of 113 systolic that had an erroneous 27mmHg systolic cuff could be diagnosed as Stage 2 hypertensive at 140.
This lack of accuracy should alarm every health care worker. The blood pressure measurement should be focused on accuracy, not the lowest cost of a cuff.
There is remedy for the compromise of accuracy by using a reliable well-made reusable cuff such as the W.A.Baum company makes and a low cost cover to protect the cuff, like Bowen Medical Cuff-Guard to prevent cross -contamination. Cleaning of the reusable cuffs between each patient is also an option-if it is thorough and documented.
The most basic of healthcare are the accurate evaluations of vital signs. The blood pressure reading should always be the most accurate we can strive to obtain.
“Since hypertension is a major world-wide problem affecting millions of people, its accurate estimation is imperative and needs further attention. The methods of measurement, equipment and the size of the cuffs have already been standardized but the cuff fabric construction and the material of the cuffs which are the cornerstone of accurate BP measurement have been neglected.”2.
1. Unsafe health and safety: sphygmomanometer cuffs are not interchangeable. By Shaw KC, McEniery CM, Wilkinson and Brown. Published in Journal of Hypertension 2013 July,27(7):434-36
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