Improper Blood Pressure Measurement Techniques May Lead to Misdiagnosis of Hypertension, New Research Shows
Improper blood pressure measurement techniques have the potential to misdiagnose millions of people with hypertension, according to a recent study. The research underscores the importance of adhering to established guidelines for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend specific guidelines for blood pressure measurements. These guidelines specify that the patient should be seated in a chair, with their feet flat on the floor, their back supported, and the arm wearing the cuff supported at heart level.
However, many healthcare professionals deviate from these guidelines and measure blood pressure while the patient is seated on an examining table, with their legs dangling and their back and arm unsupported. This improper technique can lead to inaccurate readings.
Misclassifying individuals with high blood pressure can lead to unnecessary treatment and medication. These unnecessary interventions can result in potential side effects for individuals who do not actually require them.
The study involved 150 adults who were randomly assigned to different groups. Blood pressure readings were taken on an exam table and in an exam chair with adjustable positioning. The results revealed a significant difference in readings, with readings taken on the exam table averaging 7 mmHg higher for systolic pressure and 4.5 mmHg higher for diastolic pressure compared to the recommended seated position.
This discrepancy is significant enough to misclassify millions of people as having hypertension when their blood pressure is actually within the normal range. Misclassification can have broader implications, as individuals given unnecessary medication to lower their blood pressure may develop low blood pressure, known as hypotension, which can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and an increased risk of falls.
Proper blood pressure measurement techniques and treatment should be prioritized within healthcare systems, as they can lead to better outcomes for individuals with hypertension. However, healthcare professionals often face time constraints, making it difficult to follow all preventive and chronic disease care guidelines when seeing patients.
Future research should focus on finding strategies to make blood pressure measurement more efficient without compromising the quality of care. This could help healthcare professionals overcome time constraints and ensure accurate blood pressure measurements are obtained.
The study was published in the journal eClinicalMedicine in September 2023 and was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in Philadelphia, further highlighting the significance of the findings.
As healthcare providers strive to provide the best care for individuals with hypertension, it is critical that they adhere to established guidelines for blood pressure measurements. By doing so, misdiagnoses can be minimized, and patients can receive appropriate treatment and medication, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for millions of individuals.
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