Is an upper arm blood pressure monitor more accurate than a wrist blood pressure monitor?

It's one of the most frequently asked questions about blood pressure monitors: Which blood pressure monitor is more accurate? An upper arm blood pressure monitor or a wrist blood pressure monitor? To answer this question, we look at the two aspects of blood pressure monitors: The accuracy requirements that a blood pressure monitor must meet and the use of an upper arm blood pressure monitor versus the use of a wrist blood pressure monitor. With the correct advice you can determine which blood pressure monitor is most suitable for you.

Accuracy requirements for blood pressure monitors

First of all, both an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a wrist blood pressure monitor must meet the same strict accuracy requirements. These requirements are:

  • Blood pressure: +/- 3 mm Hg (mm mercury pressure)
  • Heart rate: +/- 5% of the displayed value

With this accuracy, the rules in the European Union are met. This is directive 93/42/EEC, the Medical Devices Directive. And to European Standard EN1060, Non-Invasive Blood Pressure Monitors, Part 1: General Requirements and Part 3: Additional Requirements for Electromechanical Blood Pressure Measuring Systems.

According to the requirements within the European Union, an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a wrist blood pressure monitor are equally accurate.

Use of upper arm blood pressure monitor versus wrist blood pressure monitor

You use an upper arm blood pressure monitor in a different way than a wrist blood pressure monitor. Although both blood pressure monitors require you to be relaxed to get an accurate reading, it is more difficult with a wrist blood pressure monitor. This is because you should always hold a blood pressure monitor at the same height as the heart.

An upper arm blood pressure monitor requires you to rest your arm on a table. Your upper arm is then directly in the vicinity of the heart. You do not need to lift your arm. A wrist blood pressure monitor requires you to lift your wrist so that it is near the heart. This puts tension on your arm. After a while, this becomes more difficult to maintain. After all, you have to lift your arm for a certain amount of time. This will make your arm move a little bit. Therefore, the blood pressure measurement will become more inaccurate.

You might therefore conclude that an upper arm blood pressure monitor is more accurate than a wrist blood pressure monitor because of its use. Of course, this does vary from person to person.

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