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PTA Blog Talk

The BP Cuff

Published May 4, 2011 7:11 PM by Jason Marketti

I am certainly not an expert on taking blood pressure and concede that when I need a more accurate reading I go to the experts, the nursing assistants. Since they are generally the ones who check blood pressure on patients more often than I do, they should be able to hear the pulse that I miss. I have been to places that lean heavily on the machines with tattered cuffs or the slap-on wrist blood pressure cuffs. Call me old school, but I do not want to rely solely on a machine for an accurate reading of someone's blood pressure.

Then something happened. I was talking to a health provider who said she watches the dial to record the blood pressure. No stethoscope involved. That was scary because there are medications that have to be given if a patient's pressure is above or below a certain reading. It doesn't take much effort to place a stethoscope on the arm, tighten the cuff and listen as you deflate the cuff.

Maybe the next time the doctor wants an accurate ROM measurement on a TKA patient or when an insurance company wants to know how far someone walked, I'll just take a wild guess and blurt out some numbers. It would be about as accurate as watching a dial flutter back and forth.


Once way back in the monolithic period, I worked on a thoracic surgical unit. There was a nurse there who absolutely could read a BP by sight only. I tried, really tried to catch a flub, but no, she got it every time. It came from many, many years of experience and working with people who sometimes didn't have a "pulse" that could be heard. I never got that good nor did I ever meet anyone else that good either!

I do take a BP on EVERY patient on EVERY session. Perhaps because I work in geriatrics and the variability can be dramatic and devastating. NHS policy, I have to use one of the electronic cuffs. I hate them! I really want to go back to using my old fashioned manual sphygnomometer. The physios here are no longer taught how to do a manual BP (that freaked me out!).

One thing is certain...practice makes perfect. So if, as you say, "it doesn't take much effort...", go ahead and practice with each patient.  

Dean Metz May 4, 2011 3:58 PM

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About this Blog

    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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