What Are Blood Pressure Cuffs and How Do They Work?

A blood pressure cuff or BP cuff is one of the many popular devices in the medical world. This device is used to measure the force of blood in the veins or arteries, more commonly known as your blood pressure. A person’s blood pressure is a very important sign of cardiovascular health. It is a vital sign regularly tested and monitored by nurses or other medical staff.

Therefore, simple as it is, the BP cuff is a very important medical device that if not used properly may jeopardize a person’s life…

A blood pressure cuff is designed to be wrapped around the patients’ free arm, at the heart’s level just above the elbow. The cuff will then be inflated, putting pressure on the vessels and arteries. After the cuff reaches its maximum inflation, it will immediately start to deflate. And the return of bloodflow is measured with a special device that measures the pressure of blood against the wall of your artery.

Two numbers are recorded when taking a person’s blood pressure. The first is the systolic blood pressure and the second is the diastolic blood pressure. The result reflects the high and low points of the circulatory cycle. The accuracy of the readings therefore varies mainly on the correctness of application of the BP cuff. Variance on the result may be present especially when the cuff is too small, if the BP cuff was wrapped on top of clothing, or if the cuff is wrapped around the arm below or above the heart level.  It is necessary for the medical staff to use the appropriate size of cuff in their patients to ensure accuracy of results.

Blood pressure cuffs maybe manually inflated and deflated with a bulb which is squeezed by the staff.

There are also blood pressure cuffs that inflate or deflate itself through a built-in mechanical device. The pressure resulting from the BP cuff is then measured by another medical device called the sphygmomanometer which may have a dial output or digital output.

Although BP cuffs are designed to be used by a medical personnel, the patient can easily control his blod pressure with his home monitor. The patient can either use a manual cuff or BP cuff depending on his convenience.

Manual blood pressure cuffs are connected to a pump and are very flexible. The air bladder may have a vinyl or cloth covering and a sensor connected to a gauge that displays the BP reading. Usually the outer covering contains instructions on where to position the cuff. The patient will have to manually squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff and release it afterwards. Manual cuffs are not recommended to patients with no to less medical knowledge since it is more difficult to use. Automatic cuffs are more commonly used by patients at home since it either run on electricity or battery power and have a digitals screen which displays the results. This has a lower accuracy though.