A sphygmomanometer, also known as a blood pressure monitor, or blood pressure gauge, is a device used to measure blood pressure. In order to find out your blood pressure, the cuff inflates to a point where it temporarily cuts off the blood flow through the brachial artery in your arm. The pressure in the cuff is then slowly released. Within the cuff is a sensor that can detect blood flow. Manual sphygmomanometers are used with a stethoscope when using the auscultatory technique.
Manual blood pressure meters also requires a stethoscope for auscultation. Manual meters are best used by trained practitioners, and, while it is possible to obtain a basic reading through palpation alone, this yields only the systolic pressure.
Aneroid sphygmomanometers (mechanical types with a dial) are in common use; they may require calibration checks, unlike mercury manometers. Aneroid sphygmomanometers are considered safer than mercury sphygmomanometers, although inexpensive ones are less accurate.
Digital meters use oscillometric measurements and electronic calculations rather than auscultation. They may use manual or automatic inflation, but both types are electronic, easy to operate without training, and can be used in noisy environments. They measure systolic and diastolic pressures by oscillometric detection, employing either deformable membranes that are measured using differential capacitance, or differential piezoresistance, and they include a microprocessor. They measure mean blood pressure and pulse rate, while systolic and diastolic pressures are obtained less accurately than with manual meters, and calibration is also a concern. Digital oscillometric monitors may not be advisable for some patients, such as those suffering from arteriosclerosis, arrhythmia, preeclampsia, pulsus alternans, and pulsus paradoxus, as their calculations may not correct for these conditions, and in these cases, an analog sphygmomanometer is preferable when used by a trained person.
Digital instruments may use a cuff placed, in order of accuracy and inverse order of portability and convenience, around the upper arm, the wrist, or a finger. The oscillometric method of detection used gives blood pressure readings that differ from those determined by auscultation, and vary according to many factors, such as pulse pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness, although some instruments are claimed also to measure arterial stiffness, and some can detect irregular heartbeats.
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