Checking It Twice
Gopi Astik, MD • October 17th, 2011
I always remember my mother trying to teach me things I didn’t agree with. Being the bigmouth that I was (am), I would voice my disagreement, and she would tell me that, one day, I would tell my kids the same thing. I, of course, did not agree. I felt the same way about some of the tedious things I learned to do in medical school. I didn’t understand why my attending always made me recheck blood pressures on patients when I saw them, after a nurse had already done that precise thing. I would recheck the blood pressure and mindlessly report the measurement back to my staff. I started noticing that the levels were usually lower when I checked them again in the room, and I thought this was because I was so good at checking them.
The study regarding clinic-based BP measurement discusses this issue in more detail. It states that many people who are diagnosed with hypertension by clinic-based measurements alone are not truly hypertensive. It proves the validity of “white coat hypertension” and the importance of serial blood pressure measurements prior to initiation of therapy. If patients are not truly hypertensive, we are putting them at risk for hypotension with BP-lowering medications and subjecting them to risk for adverse effects and the associated cost-burden.
I was recently in clinic and asked my student what a patient’s blood pressure was when she rechecked it in the room — to which my student rolled her eyes and went back to check. I had to laugh — I realize how things really do come full circle.