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Is Your Blood Pressure Cuff Giving Wrong Data?

Adam Blakeley posted this on Apr 28, 2020

If your health condition requires regular monitoring of your BP, like hypertension, you will need a home blood pressure monitor. There are many types of BP machines in the market, some are fully digital with some enhanced features, however, it is prudent to check the clinical validation of the product before making a purchase.

According to clinical surveys, upper-arm blood pressure monitors usually give the most accurate results. Many companies provide medium-size cuff along with the monitor, but you need the right cuff size for precise results.

What are blood pressure cuffs? How do these functions?

Blood pressure cuffs are inflatable, flexible sack and are fastened around the arm. It comes with a small hand-held pump that expands the pressure cuff. An air valve is also present to release the pressure. The pressure cuffs are made of hypoallergenic material and are free of latex, making it safe for sensitive skin.

Initially, the pressure is raised above normal systolic pressure which stops the blood flow. When the pressure is gradually released of the cuffs and it matches normal systolic pressure, blood starts to flow. A stethoscope is used to measure the blood flow turbulence.

However, a stethoscope is required only with an aneroid pressure cuff; digital blood pressure cuffs are automated. Digital cuffs are easier to use at home.

Here are some mistakes due to which you can get incorrect readings

You are incorrectly positioning the cuffs:

One of the most common mistakes made in blood pressure measurement is incorrectly placing it on the limb. To get accurate pressure data one must eliminate gravity influence. So, the position plays a critical factor. The standard level of pressure cuff is at ‘heart’s level’.

Placing it way above the heart's level provides inappropriate data of low blood pressure; vice versa when positioned way below the heart’s level.

1. You are using a wrong size BP cuff

The blood pressure cuff should sufficiently cover the arms. A pressure cuff of too large a size or overly small will provide too low or too high-pressure data respectively. The American Heart Association suggests that a cuff’s length must be 80% and width must be 40% of an individual’s arm circumference.

Measure around your upper arm at the midpoint between your shoulder and elbow, if its above 32 cm, you need a large cuff size and if it is below 22 cm, you need a small cuff size. An easier way to measure the ideal size is to ensure the cuff covers the two-third length from the shoulder to the elbow.

Like an obese patient would require a larger size cuff and the standard cuff that comes along with the machine is not suitable for his/her usage.

2. Not rectifying your posture

For correct measurement, the user must maintain proper limb posture. The ideal way to maintain the perfect posture is to hold the arm at the heart's level. In digital pressure cuffs, ensure the cuffed arm is not held too close to the sides. This affects the pressure signals. Keep the cuffed arm a little away from the body for exact measurement. Also, sit straight, stop movement, and certainly do not lean against anything. This creates a fluctuation in blood turbulence and causes data distortion.

Remember, the cuff is a sensor, keep it separated from interference.

3. Have you looked for leakages and blockages?

Error in measurement can be due to various reasons. A blocked hose or a leaked connector or cuff can be a contributing factor.

To figure out, listen closely to the hose or cuff while inflating it and look for hissing sounds.

Also, make sure you do not step on equipment parts.

4. Situational Error

Every individual, while testing blood pressure, has faced this. Light exercise, drinking coffee or smoking, and even anxiety can elevate blood pressure levels. It is essential to have a calm composure when measuring blood pressure.

The cuffs come in different colors representing different sizes, disposable pressure cuffs to avoid cross-contamination and there are instruction manuals by the manufacturers with further guidelines.

To make use of any medical device properly, it is essential to get an insight into the design and how it functions. Also, what are the possible places you can make an error?

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