Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors
Win For Convenience But...
Is that as important as other features? What about accuracy and reliability of the wrist blood pressure monitors? Do they hold up over time? Let’s discuss these attributes and other questions.
Wrist blood pressure monitors can be thought of as an offspring of the digital blood pressure monitor which is an offspring of the first blood pressure monitors, the mercury and the aneroid. For best understanding read my page on Blood Pressure Monitorand then my page on Digital Blood Pressure Monitors, then come back here.
Medical engineers, on the hunt for more convenience, took the principles of digital monitors and adapted them to make a device for the wrist. This location allows readings without removing much clothing, thus the convenience. If you are wearing a short sleeve blouse or shirt that feature kind of dissipates. Also, how much trouble is it to bare an arm?
Comparing the wrist location to the traditional location above the elbow reveals several inherent differences which are potential problems.
The blood flow at the wrist is much less for obvious reason. Compressing the wrist to shut off the radial artery is different due to the much smaller size and preponderance of bony tissue. The blood pressure itself is less at the wrist. All of these differences must be counteracted. Some books and writings say that the wrist has been shown to be less accurate. I have seen articles approving the wrist location for some particular models.
Features vary from one model to another and from company to company so I can’t make generalizations about all wrist blood pressure monitors. There are probably some that are accurate but it seems they are more subject to exact positioning and operation. They are more sensitive to body movements as well. I have seen articles approving the accuracy of particular models.
The complexity of this apparatus and the problems it has to overcome give me pause. This same complexity requires all maintenance and calibration to be done at the factory. Follow the manufacturers advice.
When a device is sensitive to physical conditions then consistency is hard to come by. I suppose there are some models that are consistent if the operator is able to supply optimal conditions of operation.
Considering the extra problems the wrist blood pressure monitors have to overcome it seems expedient to consider only the higher end apparatus. This puts the cost well above the traditional BP monitors.
Doctor’s Practical Guide:
When you take your blood pressure yourself you eliminate the false elevations that are due to someone else taking it (white-coat hypertension). When you take it with a mercury or aneroid instrument you hear it and see it yourself. That makes me feel sure that I know what it is.
The digital instruments require trust and the wrist blood pressure monitors require a lot of trust.
If you are considering a wrist device make it a high-end one and research it as an individual model. I can’t make generalizations when the apparatus and the software vary a lot and are secret. Most of the search engine result pages you get are sites wanting to sell you one which is a built-in conflict of interest.
Bottom line: My experience with these wrist monitors has been poor. They seem temperamental with too many readings outside the expected. They require trust where I would rather not have to trust. Doubting the accuracy is a lot to pay for some convenience. Actually getting inaccurate readings is too much to pay.
My choice, as a professional, is an aneroid. For a description of the one I recommend and use, see Home Blood Pressure Monitors
My choice for the non-professional is a good quality digital monitor for the upper arm.
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