Common Errors of Blood Pressure Measurement

Common Errors of Blood Pressure Measurement
Studies show that more than 25% of elevated readings are false.
This can prevent someone from getting the treatment they need or can make them incur expenses for treatment they may not need.
Below is a list of some of the most common errors of blood pressure measurement and their potential effect on the systolic reading.
Common Error
Effect On Systolic BP
Up to...
What To Do To Correct Error
Sit without back supported
+ 6 to 10
Support back (sit in chair)
Full bladder
+ 15
Empty bladder before BP taken
Tobacco/caffeine use
+ 6 to 20
Don’t use before clinic appointment
While seated in chair, patient’s arm must be supported on
a firm surface at heart level. For every inch above or below
heart level, the reading may be off by 2mmHg.
BP taken when arm is:
Parallel to body
Elbow too high
Elbow too low
+ 9 to 13
+ 1 to 7
False low
False high
“White Coat” reaction
+ 11 to 28
Have someone else take the BP or do at end of visit
Talking or hand gestures
+ 10
Do not talk or use hand motions during measurement
Cuff too narrow/small
+ > 10
Cuff too wide/large
False low
Cuff not centered
Choose the right-sized cuff and
properly center over the brachial artery.
place cuff around bare upper arm
Cuff over clothing
+ 5 to 50
For more information contact:
Stacy Meyer, Lead Master Blood Pressure Trainer
MCD Public Health
207-622-7566 ext 302 ∙ [email protected]
(for example: If the arm is 3” above the heart, the reading may by
under read by 6mmHg.)
(Pickering et al., 2005; Perry & Potter, 2006)
Used with permission from Kaiser Permanente.)
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