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If your doctor or other healthcare provider has told you to monitor your blood pressure at home, you'll need a sphygmomanometer . It's made up of a cuff, pressure registering system and stethoscope. Some devices contain all of these in one unit. There are three types: mercury, aneroid and automatic. Automatic devices usually work with batteries and have a digital readout. They may remember and even print out your readings. Each of the three types has advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages and Disadvantages of each type of Blood Pressure Monitor
Mercury sphygmomanometer: It's the standard for blood pressure measurement. It's durable, easy to read and doesn't require readjustment. The mercury sphygmomanometer is a simple mechanism that works by gravity to give consistent and accurate readings. It has a long, tubular gauge made of glass or plastic. For safety, glass tubes should be wrapped in Mylar to prevent breakage. It's not often recommended for home use due to the hazards of mercury. However, those made for home use are lightweight and relatively safe by design, and can be used with a D-ring cuff and attached stethoscope for convenient self-measurement. It will easily last a lifetime with minimal maintenance.
Disadvantages: May be bulky to carry. A mercury spill could be hazardous. Must be kept upright on a flat surface during measurement; the gauge must be read at eye level for accuracy. May not work well for the hearing or visually impaired or for those unable to perform the hand movement needed to squeeze the bulb and inflate the cuff.
Aneroid equipment is often inexpensive, lightweight and more portable than mercury. The aneroid gauge will function in any position if the reader is able to view it directly. Some models have easy-to-read, extra large gauge; D-ring cuff for one-handed application; built-in or attached stethoscope; and a self-bleeding deflation valve for increased reading accuracy.
Disadvantages: It's a fairly delicate and complicated mechanism. The only way to tell if the gauge is accurate is to check it against a mercury sphygmomanometer at least once a year and when dropped or bumped. It can be easily damaged without the user's knowledge and requires factory repair and readjustment. The gauge can be clumsy to position, and without a D-ring cuff can be difficult to apply by oneself. It may not work well for the hearing or visually impaired or for those unable to perform the hand movement needed to squeeze the bulb and inflate the cuff.
Automatic equipment is contained in one unit, so less manual dexterity is required than for systems with separate gauge and stethoscope. It's easy to use, minimizes human error and is good for people with hearing or vision loss. Most units are very portable and have a D-ring cuff for one-handed application. The cuff may fit around the wrist or arm. More expensive models have automatic inflation and deflation systems; large, easy-to-read digital display and error indicator; reading printouts; and built-in pulse (heart rate) measurement.
Disadvantages: Mechanism is complex, fragile and sensitive. Device accuracy must be checked first by comparing to a mercury device, then during measurement on the user. The most accurate devices don't give accurate readings on certain individuals. Body movements may influence accuracy. It can be expensive; requires batteries and an AC adapter for large arm cuffs; may require factory repair and readjustment when faulty. Requires careful cuff placement and arm positioning for accurate operation, especially the wrist cuff model. Some models are designed for use on only the right or left arm. Large cuffs may be relatively expensive or difficult to obtain.