Blood pressure measurement is an essential part of testing and assessing heart health. Measurement devices can be manual or automatic, each with advantages and drawbacks.
Blood Pressure Measurement
All blood pressure (BP) machines give measurements as two numbers, expressed in "millimetres of mercury" (mm Hg). The first number reflects the systolic (heartbeat) pressure, while the second number indicates the diastolic (resting heart) pressure.
According to Mosby's Guide to Physical Examination, the equipment for BP measurement includes a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer. A sphygmomanometer consists of an inflatable cuff, a rubber bulb with a valve, tubing and a pressure gauge.
Manual BP Monitoring
Manual BP measurement involves manually inflating the cuff around the arm and listening to blood flow sounds (via a stethoscope) while checking the gauge for the corresponding pressure values.
Automatic BP Monitoring
Automatic blood pressure machines inflate and deflate automatically at the touch of a button and produce digital readouts of the blood pressure they sense.
Manual Devices Pros & Cons
The Mayo Clinic reports a cost advantage for manual BP monitors. Other benefits include a built-in stethoscope and portability (for aneroid monitors). Drawbacks include a complicated use and device fragility.
Automatic Devices Pros & Cons
Potential advantages of automatic BP monitors include pulse rate readings, ease of use, error indicator and printable BP records. Drawbacks include high cost, variable accuracy and batteries required.
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