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Blood pressure readings 'should be taken from both arms'


There is increasing evidence that measuring blood pressure in both arms should become a routine part of monitoring patients with hypertension, according to UK researchers.

They warn that while national hypertension guidance recommends measurement in both arms, the practice “continues to be undertaken selectively in primary care settings”.

The researchers, from the Peninsula College of Medicine in Devon, found hypertension patients with different blood pressure readings in each arm were at a reduced chance of survival over 10 years. The findings follow a study by the same team, published earlier this year, which found different arm readings predicted reduced survival over five years.

In the latest study, they looked at 230 patients and found a difference in systolic blood pressure between arms of 10-15mmHg or more was associated with a reduction in event free survival over 10 years.

The authors said the study supported the view of “inter-arm difference as a simple indicator of increased cardiovascular risk”. Assessment of blood pressure in both arms should become a “core component” of treating patients with high blood pressure in primary care, they authors said.

British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Maureen Talbot said: “This study supports national guidelines, which recommend that blood pressure readings are taken in both arms.

“It is normal to have a small difference in blood pressure readings between arms. However, a big difference between readings may carry risks.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • Yes I agree with this because I work as a healthcare assistant when I check my patients blood pressure I always get different blood pressure reading..

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  • i also agree, i think this should be standard practice

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  • as long as the results are reported and any necessary action taken!

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  • Hmmm. May be necessary in a GP practice or in clinic, but unusable guidance on a general ward methinks. Where I am, we check all patients bilateral BP on admission, and no more unless indicated. Also, the survey is over a long period of time, reduced mortality over 10 years! It's far too generalised. For the HCA above, it is normal to get a slight differential in BP, however anything over 20mmHg definately warrants immediate investigation ( however, would suggest that before you ring the arrest team recheck both arms using a manual sphyg!)

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  • bp on both arms routinely would double the time of the obs round so would therefore need more staff unless you do what a senior staff (blue belt to prove it) once instructed me to do as a student just before sister came on duty so that it would appear that all the work had been completed and the ward looked in perfect order. that was just to fill in the charts by checking the previous reading and modifying them slightly!!!!

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