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Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring

Non-Invasive Tests

What is Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) takes numerous readings of your blood pressure over a 24-hour period or longer. It provides accurate and reliable information and can give you and your doctor a truer picture of your blood pressure than occasional visits and readings taken at your doctor's office.  

ABPM may be used:   

  • when blood pressure levels show unusual variability

  • when high blood pressure is resistant to drug treatment - three or more drugs

  • when symptoms suggest the possibility of low blood pressure due to over-treatment

  • to aid the diagnosis of high blood pressure related to anxiety in the clinical setting, known as 'white coat

  • hypertension'.

How often will my blood pressure be taken?

Usually, your heart rate and blood pressure will be measured at 15 to 30 minute periods during the day and every 30 minutes to one hour at night. Although you may notice the first few times the cuff inflates, you will soon become used to the monitor. Most people find them very easy to wear. The machine records all the readings and after 24 hours has passed you can remove the machine and give it back to your clinic, doctor, or nurse. They will then look at all of the readings and take an average recording of your blood pressure.
During the 24 hours that you wear the machine you should do whatever you would normally do. When the machine takes a reading keep your arm steady with the cuff at the same level as your heart and, if you can, sit down.   

How does ABPM work?

Most ambulatory blood pressure monitors use either what's called an ausculatory method or an oscillomtetric method. Blood pressure sounds are determined by the ausculatory method that uses microphones under the blood pressure cuff. The oscillometric method involves measuring movement of the blood after closing off the brachial artery, the main artery that runs from the shoulder down to the elbow. Some devices use both methods. The data is stored and then interpreted by trained professionals in your doctor's office.   

What does the ambulatory blood pressure monitor look like?

The monitor is a small device worn in a pouch that has a blood pressure cuff attached to it. The cuff is fitted on the patients arm and inflates and deflates automatically throughout the 24- or 48-hour period it is worn.  

How can ambulatory blood pressure monitoring help me?

Blood pressure is characterized by a clear circadian rhythm, the natural 24-hour rhythm set by the body's "biological clock." Blood pressure normally rises in the early morning, varies during the day depending on activity and falls during sleep.
While blood pressure readings taken occasionally at the doctor's office may be able to signal a problem, ABPM provides a more comprehensive picture of actual blood pressure status. It's also a better predictor of organ damage and heart problems caused by hypertension than standard blood pressure test. This means you and your doctor have solid information to rely on when considering treatment options.  

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