Clinical Queries: Vital information about a vital sign: BP
Harriet Portman BSN, RN
Susan Sheppard CGRN

February 2011 
Volume 41  Number 2
Pages 66 - 66
  PDF Version Available!

Harriet Portman, BSN, RN, and Susan Sheppard, CGRN, reply: The accuracy of manual BP readings using the auscultatory method depends on the expertise of the clinician. For instance, has the clinician mastered the correct technique? Is the clinician skillful in recognizing Korotkoff sounds? Studies reveal that clinicians often round numbers down to 0 or 5, which leads to an inaccurate BP measurement, possibly resulting in inappropriate patient management.1Many factors can affect the accuracy of the readings, including the cuff being deflated too rapidly and limitations in the clinician's auditory acuity, either due to background noise or due to hearing loss. Some patients become anxious during healthcare procedures ("white-coat" effect), which can cause a misleadingly high BP reading.As you measure your patient's BP, follow these guidelines whenever possible: * Make sure the patient has had no caffeine for 1 hour and no nicotine for 30 minutes before the measurement.2 * Perform medication

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