31 Jan 2012

Tests of blood pressure in both arms recommended

5:28 am on 31 January 2012

Researchers in Britain say measuring the blood pressure in both arms should become routine, as the difference between the left and right arm could indicate an underlying health problem.

Research published in the Lancet medical journal found a large difference in blood pressure between the limbs could mean an increased risk of vascular disease and death.

Although existing guidelines state that blood pressure should be measured in both arms, it is not often done.

Dr Christopher Clark and colleagues from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter, reviewed 28 previous study papers looking at this area.

Most people in the study had an elevated blood pressure risk and about a third had a normal level of risk.

The study concluded that a difference in systolic blood pressure of 10 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) between arms could identify patients at high risk of asymptomatic peripheral vascular disease.

The authors said a difference of 15mg Hg would also indicate an increased risk of cerebrovascular disease, a 70% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and 60% increased risk of death from all causes.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet. There are often no symptoms.