How to Use a Stethoscope for Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure - How to Use a Stethoscope for Blood PressureAs a health care professional, it’s important to properly know how to use a stethoscope for blood pressure. Health care pros spend a lot of time taking blood pressure every day; and it’s easy to get into careless habits over time. In the interest of quality patient care, then, here’s a little tune-up and review of how to correctly use a stethoscope for blood pressure:

How to place the blood pressure cuff correctly

The first step in placing the cuff correctly is to locate the brachial pulse. There can be considerable variation from one patient to another, so avoid making assumptions. After you find it, place one finger directly over the pulse point and reach for the cuff with your other hand.

Now you can put the cuff on the patient’s arm. Align the artery label right above the pulse and leave about an inch between the cuff and the pulse point.

How to use a stethoscope for blood pressure

Before you start to inflate the cuff, place the stethoscope on your patient’s arm. Use some light pressure on the bell and then start inflating. Doing it this way gives you the opportunity to listen while the cuff is inflating.

Taking Blood Pressure - How to Use a Stethoscope for Blood PressureTake notice as soon as you hear the characteristic whooshing of the Korotkoff sounds. You’ll know exactly when to stop inflating the cuff when you hear the sounds stop.

How to take an accurate blood pressure reading

Use a nice, even drop rate for the most accurate results. If the needle is dropping too fast, you might end up with a falsely low systolic reading. If you let it go too slowly, your patient might fall asleep waiting for you.

Listen for the first audible whoosh ‒ that’s your systolic pressure ‒ and the last audible whoosh, which gives you the diastolic pressure. Remember to use your ears, and not your eyes. The needle on the pressure gauge will definitely show some bumps during the drop. But this may or not have any correlation with what you’re hearing. Using the needle alone will not give you an accurate reading.

An accurate blood pressure reading depends as much on your skills as it does on the quality of stethoscope you’re using ‒ and remember that your very best instrument is always the one between your ears!

What this video to see how to use a stethoscope for blood pressure.

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