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BACKGROUND: Several studies have reported overdiagnosis and overtreatment of hypertensive patients, especially in borderline hypertensives. AIM: To find a blood pressure measurement procedure that reduces the risk of misclassification to an acceptable level. METHOD: Comparative, prospective study over seven months of primary care patients with elevated initial blood pressures. Blood pressure measurements made by general practitioners (GPs), practice nurses, and patients were compared with ambulatory blood pressure measurements. RESULTS: Ninety-nine patients completed the study. Mean differences (systolic blood pressure) between different measurement procedures and ambulatory measurement ranged from +10 mmHg (doctor) to -1 mmHg (patient), and (diastolic) from +4 mmHg (doctor) to -2 mmHg (patient). Standard deviations of mean differences ranged from 12 mmHg (doctor/systolic) to 10 mmHg (patient/systolic), and from 8 mmHg (doctor/diastolic) to 7 mmHg (patient/diastolic). CONCLUSION: Self-measurements by the patient appear to be a reliable alternative to ambulatory blood pressure measurement. In diagnosing and managing mild hypertension, we recommend the use of a valid self-measuring device.