Manual vs Electric Blood Pressure Monitors

May 14, 2001

The Bottom Line The major difference is ease of use and accuracy. If ease of use is important, I recommend the electric monitor. For accuracy, they should use the manual mercury manometer.

Currently, it is estimated that 1 in every 4 Americans have high blood pressure - medically referred to as hypertension. Even more alarming is the fact that one-third of this population isn't even aware they have it! Since hypertension doesn't necessarily causes symptoms, it has been nicknamed the "silent killer". For this reason regular readings of blood pressure is very important.
To date, two major types of monitors for reading blood pressure exist - manual and electric. Differences between these two types primarily involve accuracy and ease of use.

Manual operation requires more knowledge of the equipment and its use. Usually it requires manual operation of the following: inflation of the arm cuff, use of stethoscope, determination of systolic/diastolic reading by sound, and visual recording of meter markings. To consumers who have difficulty hearing or seeing, or those who possess dexterity issues, ease of use may be a big concern with manual monitors.

The electric (or sometimes called automated) monitor's strong point is ease of use. As the name suggests, most of the monitor's operation has been automated. Usually no stethoscope is required, although you can obtain models that allow for its use. Levels of systolic and diastolic measurements are determined by the monitor and typically displayed via a digital readout that is easy to read. Some models even include an optional printout which allows for tracking of one's levels. Inflation of the arm cuff is also automated, but again, electric models can be obtained that allow for manual inflation. However, some concern has been raised as to the accuracy of using monitors other than the (manual) mercury manometer. It is suggested that users of electric and non-mercury monitors have them calibrated at least one to two times a year by their family physician.

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