When you visit the doctor’s office, you likely have your blood pressure checked by a nurse or other clinician before you see your physician. It’s one of the basic measurements of a person’s health.
You assume that the person taking your blood pressure knows what they’re doing and that the reading is accurate. However, at one high blood pressure symposium where health care professionals were tested on their blood pressure measurement skills, just 10% passed the test.
Errors made by medical professionals and patients
According to the American Heart Association, here are some of these mistakes are made by the person doing the measurement that can cause an inaccurate blood pressure reading for the patient:
- Putting the cuff over clothing. It needs to be placed directly on a person’s arm. Not doing that can add up to 50 points to the reading.
- Using a cuff that’s too small. This can add up to 10 points to the reading.
- Not being in the proper positions. The arm with the cuff needs to be placed on the arm of the chair or on a counter or table. It shouldn’t be handing or held up in the air. The back should be supported by the chair, and the feet should be flat on the floor or a stool. The wrong positioning can cause a reading of up to 10 points higher than is accurate.
- Talking during the reading. Patients should not be talking, either to the nurse or on the phone, while their blood pressure is being taken. This can add points.
- Having a full bladder: Nurses may not ask if you need to use the restroom before they do the measurement. However, a full bladder can add as many as 15 points to the reading.
Why an accurate blood pressure reading matters
While it may be less dangerous for someone to be misdiagnosed with high blood pressure than for a person who actually has high blood pressure (hypertension) not to be diagnosed with it. However, it’s never a good idea for people to take a prescription medication they don’t need. Further, any inaccurate information about something as important as blood pressure can prevent proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm because any test was administered improperly or the results were misread, it may be wise to discuss the situation with an experienced attorney.