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Blood pressure measurement occasionally shows up as an OSCE station. It’s important you’re familiar with this relatively simple procedure if you want to look slick and score well on the station. There’s often a significant number of marks available for communication skills when explaining the procedure to the patient, so don’t overlook the importance of this aspect of the station. Check out the blood pressure measurement mark scheme here.



Gather equipment

Before you see the patient ensure you have the appropriate equipment to perform blood pressure measurement.

1. Stethoscope

2. Sphygmomanometer:

  • Ensure you have an appropriately sized cuff
  • A cuff that’s too small may overestimate BP
  • A cuff that’s too large will underestimate BP

Introduction

Wash hands

Introduce yourself – state your name and role

Confirm patient details – name / DOB

 

Explain the procedure:

I will be measuring your blood pressure

This will involve inflating a cuff around your arm briefly and listening to your pulse with a stethoscope

It shouldn’t be painful, but it may feel a little uncomfortable temporarily

 

Check understanding Does everything I’ve said make sense? Do you have any questions?

Gain consent – Are you happy for me to record your blood pressure?

Check if the patient has a preference as to which arm to use e.g. avoid arms with post mastectomy lymphoedema 


Attaching the cuff

1. Ensure the cuff size appears appropriate

2. Wrap the cuff around the patient’s upper arm 

3. Line up the cuff marker with the brachial artery – slightly medial to the the biceps brachii tendon

  • Ensure cuff size is appropriate

Measuring the blood pressure

Estimate an approximate systolic blood pressure

1. Palpate the radial pulse

2. Inflate the cuff until you can no longer feel this pulse

3. Note the reading on the sphygmomanometer

This is a rough estimate of the systolic blood pressure

  • Palpate radial artery

Measure the blood pressure accurately

1. Place your stethoscope’s diaphragm over the brachial artery

2. Re-inflate the cuff to 20-30 mmHg above your approximate systolic BP measured earlier

3. Begin to slowly deflate the cuff – around 2-3 mmHg per second

 

4. Listen carefully and at some point you will begin to hear a thumping pulsatile noise:

  • This is known as the 1st Korotkoff sound 
  • The pressure at which this 1st sound is heard is the systolic blood pressure

 

5. Continue to deflate the cuff, continuing to listen until the sounds completely disappear:

  • The point at which you hear the last sound is referred to as the 5th Korotkoff sound
  • This is the diastolic blood pressure

 

6. If the patient is noted to be hypertensive (>140/90) or hypotensive you should re-check the blood pressure after 2 minutes to confirm this is an accurate result (use the other arm and reconsider if the cuff size is appropriate)

  • Palpate brachial artery

To complete the procedure

Document the recordings in the patient’s notes.

Explain the need for follow up if hypertensive – BP monitoring / antihypertensives

Thank patient

Wash hands


REVIEWED BY

Michelle Spence

Senior Nurse Practitioner 


Assessment

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