Potential Problems With the Random-Zero Sphygmomanometer

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The random-zero sphygmomanometer is frequently used in epidemiologic and clinical research to increase the reliability and validity of blood pressure readings. However, recent reports have suggested that there is a correlation between the zero values of a random-zero sphygmomanometer and the zero-corrected blood pressure readings obtained. The design of the random-zero sphygmomanometer would suggest that the zero values and zero-corrected blood pressures should be uncorrelated. Hence, residual correlation might be of importance in determining the utility of this device. We have explored this relation in the Middlesex County Blood Pressure Survey, which collected data on 2725 randomly selected adults. Each person had three blood pressure readings taken with a random-zero sphygmomanometer operated by trained interviewers. There was a very weak but statistically significant correlation between the zero values and zero-corrected systolic blood pressure (r=−.034, regression slope =−.10), but there was no statistically significant relation with zero-corrected diastolic blood pressure (r=.0003, slope=.0006). Both the conelations and regression slopes were higher for subjects over age 65 years. These data fail to confirm the observed correlations found by Kronmal et al. This discrepancy might be explained by differences in measurement technique, which could introduce a blood pressure-dependent skewing of the range of zero values. If confirmed, this effect would have no effect on the validity of the final blood pressure readings and hence would not need to be considered in decisions about the use of the random-zero sphygmomanometer.

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