Blood Pressure Readings Differ When Guidelines Followed

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Routine blood pressure monitoring measurements taken at clinics are frequently inaccurate and can affect treatment for high blood pressure, according to a new study.

The incorrect measurements occur because some health care providers don't follow official American Heart Association recommendations for accurate and consistent blood pressure measurements, the researchers said in a journal news release.

Body position, arm position, differences between arms, and blood pressure cuff size and placement can all affect the measurements.

The researchers compared blood pressure measurements of 40 people taken using the AHA-recommend method and the traditional methods routinely used in clinics. The two measurements were different for as many as 93 percent of the patients.

There were multiple technical errors during blood pressure measurements taken at clinics. Out of 10 possible errors as defined by the AHA, the average number of errors per patient during blood pressure measurements at clinics was four. The most common was not taking readings from both arms.

Hypothetical treatment decisions provided by three physicians suggested that 45 percent of the patients would have received different treatments based on the two different blood pressure measurements.

"Inaccurate blood pressure assessment is common and may impact hypertension treatment. Clinic staff need to be educated on the AHA recommendations for accurate blood pressure measurement, and encouraged to follow them in order to obtain a more accurate reading. More accurate blood pressure measurement could result in improved hypertension-management decisions," concluded Gretchen Ray and colleagues from the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, in the release.

The study appears online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Journal of General Internal Medicine, news release, Dec. 12, 2011