Effect of standard cuff on blood pressure readings in patients with obese arms. How frequent are arms of a ‘large circumference’?

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ObjectiveTo measure the effect on blood pressure readings when a standard cuff is used on patients with arms of a large circumference, and to determine the frequency of arms of a large circumference.SubjectsBlood pressures were taken in 120 subjects with an arm circumference greater than 33 cm. Also, the arm circumference was determined in 244 patients from a family health unit, and in 216 patients from a hypertension clinic.MethodA mercury sphygmomanometer and two different cuff sizes were used in a random sequence; therefore, 60 patients' blood pressure were first measured with a large cuff, followed by a standard cuff; the opposite sequence was then applied for another 60 patients. With the obtained values and using a regression analysis, the difference in blood pressure overestimation was calculated. Arm circumference measurement percentages were used to determine the frequency of arms of a large circumference.ResultsBoth systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly greater when the standard cuff was used. For every 5 cm increase in arm circumference, starting at 35 cm, a 2–5 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure, and a 1–3 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure was observed. The prevalence of arms with a large circumference in the family medicine unit and hypertension clinic was 42% and 41.8%, respectively.ConclusionsThere is an overestimation of blood pressure when a standard cuff is used in obese subjects. The high prevalence of these individuals in our environment, both in the hypertensive and normotensive population, makes it necessary to have on hand different sizes of cuffs for taking blood pressure in order to avoid incorrect decisions.

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