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Conventional sphygmomanometry, using the technique introduced by Riva-Rocci in 1896 and modified by Korotkoff in 1905, has served us well for the past 100 years, but a new era has dawned. The third edition of Blood Pressure Measurement: Recommendations of the British Hypertension Society on which this web site and CD ROM are based differs, therefore, in emphasis from the first edition published in 1987.

Advances must be anticipated that herald new approaches to blood pressure measurement in practice. The development of reliable, automated techniques of measurement has opened new possibilities; one example is the measurement of "ambulatory" blood pressure, allowing recordings over 24 h while subjects go about their daily activities.

The pressure from environmentalists to ban mercury as a toxic substance is likely to be persuasive, as it has been in Scandinavian countries.

Although these developments may herald the demise of conventional blood pressure measurement with the mercury sphygmomanometer, the technique is likely to remain in use for some time yet. The aim of these revised recommendations is to provide simple guidance for the indirect measurement of blood pressure, while anticipating how developments may influence practice.


Photo of examiner and patient 

Only an observer who is aware of the factors that lead to false readings should measure blood pressure. Inaccurate readings obtained through failure to use the proper technique lead to the wrong diagnosis, which may result in unnecessary or inappropriate treatment and follow up. Observer accuracy is often taken for granted but when the technique of doctors and nurses is assessed critically they may show a surprising degree of inaccuracy.

Incorrect technique leads to:

  • False readings
  • Unnecessary treatment
  • Inappropriate treatment and follow up


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BHS 1999