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When you have completed this skills chapter you should be able to:
The following are important if you want to measure the blood pressure accurately:
The patient should lie on her right side or sit when her blood pressure is measured.
The examination couches in most clinics stand with their left side against a wall as it is most convenient for a right-handed person to examine the right side of the patient. The lower arm (i.e. the right arm if she is lying on her right side) should be used, as the upper arm will give false low readings as it is above the level of the heart. The arm must be fully undressed so that the cuff can be correctly applied.
The patient should lie down on her side or sit. Lying on her back may cause hypotension, giving a falsely low reading. She should also lie slightly turned onto her side. Lying on her back may cause the uterus to press on the inferior vena cava resulting in a decreased return of blood to the heart and a drop in blood pressure. A false low blood pressure may, therefore, be recorded.
Anxiety and the effort of climbing onto the couch often increases the blood pressure. This will usually return to a resting value if the patient can lie down and relax for 5 minutes.
A standard size cuff (width of 14.5 cm) is usually used. If the arm is very fat, then use a wide cuff (17.5 cm) to get a correct reading. The cuff must be applied firmly around the arm, not allowing more than 1 finger between the cuff and the patient’s arm.
The cuff should be pumped up with a finger feeling the brachial or radial pulse. Only when the pulse can no longer be felt, should the stethoscope be put over the brachial pulse and the pressure released slowly.
The Korotkoff phases are times when the sound of the pulse changes during the measurement of the blood pressure:
Phase 1 is the first sound which you hear after the cuff pressure is released. This indicates the systolic pressure.
Phase 5 is the time when the sound of the pulse disappears. Usually the sound gets softer before it disappears but sometimes it disappears without first becoming softer at the same time. However, in all cases the diastolic blood pressure must be read when the sound of the pulse disappears.
The amount of protein in a sample of urine is simply and easily measured with a plastic, reagent strip.
Using a reagent strip the amount of proteinuria is graded as follows:
Remember that a trace (0.1g/l) of protein is not regarded as significant proteinuria and may occur normally.
Reagent strips may incorrectly assess the degree of proteinuria if the urine is very concentrated or very dilute. Do not use the first urine passed in the morning as it may be concentrated and, therefore, give a falsely high reading.