Advances in Blood Pressure Monitors

Of the approximately 75 million American adults with hypertension, millions of patients visit their doctors yearly to monitor and control their blood pressure, yet only about half of them have their condition under control. Since high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, chronic heart failure, and kidney disease, accurately measuring and tracking a patient’s blood pressure is a vital part of triage and any office consultation.

Testing blood pressure is a two part process, resulting in two numerical measurements - the systolic and the diastolic blood pressures. The systolic indicates how much pressure your blood exerts against the artery walls during heartbeats. The diastolic number indicates the minimum arterial pressure during relaxation and dilation of the ventricles of the heart. To perform the test, a reading is taken by placing a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer), typically on the upper arm, which is then inflated either manually or electronically. The cuff momentarily stops the blood flow to the brachial artery through compression, and the systolic pressure is recorded. Next, the cuff is slowly deflated while the person performing this measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors the electronic readout on the blood pressure monitor.

Measuring blood pressure began in 1733, when Stephen Hales demonstrated the ability to measure blood pressure of the heart through displacement of the blood. His demonstration, done on a horse, was so invasive in nature that it had very little application for human patients. In the early 1800s, Jean Leonard Marie Poiseuille introduced a slightly less invasive technique for measuring blood pressure, but it still involved inserting a liquid filled tube into an artery to measure the pressure. Thankfully, in 1896, Scipione Riva-Rocci discovered that counter-pressure could be used to find the systolic pressure. Placing a cuff around the patient’s arm, he inflated the cuff with an attached bulb, until the radial pulse was no longer present. He then slowly deflated the cuff until the radial pulse reappeared, noting the systolic pressure.

Diastolic pressure was more elusive to discover, but in 1905 Nikolai Korotkoff invented the auscultatory technique. Realizing the sound of the blood movement (henceforth known as Korotkoff sounds) changed as the pressure on the cuff was released, he deduced that the moment all sounds disappeared is the moment of minimal blood pressure, otherwise known as the diastolic pressure. As anyone who learned the old fashioned way with a cuff and dial or column and a stethoscope can attest, this can be difficult to learn to do accurately. Manual monitors are dependent on the skill of the technician, and readings can vary.

Today, there are a variety of blood pressure monitors available. Most common are automatic monitors that take quick and accurate readings and eliminate the potential for human error. These monitors have easy to read numbers and dedicated, customizable controls. Reusable cuffs made from a nylon material are the norm, but disposable cuffs are also available and may be preferable in certain environments. Frequently, monitors are available on a rolling stand so that they are easily portable. Ambulatory monitors are lightweight and often have specialty cuffs with an elastic sleeve that stays in place during extended periods of movement. These are most often sent home with the patient to perform a 24-hour monitoring session, providing accurate data that is used to tailor drug therapy regimes to the individual patient. Wireless technology is used to transmit data from these and other monitors to remote locations, to better interface with electronic medical records. Many models currently used in medical offices, hospitals, and clinics also include the ability to monitor other vital signs such as temperature, pulse, and SpO2 (peripheral capillary oxygen saturation). These devices are packaged as vital signs monitors.  

Whether in a hospital, emergency, or professional setting, fast and accurate blood pressure reading is critical and could be a matter of life and death. Although blood pressure machines are fairly ubiquitous in society today, found not only in the doctor’s office but in almost every pharmacy and even in many educational environments, choosing the correct device for your practice is one of the most important decisions you can make for your patients. Absolute Med provides the highest quality blood pressure and vital signs monitors at budget conscious prices.  Browse through our selection of fully reconditioned blood pressure monitors, all guaranteed to perform at the manufacturer's original specifications.