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Old 08-16-2012, 06:52 PM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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Irregular heart beat symbol on BP machines. Accuracy?

My parents have an OMRON BP mointor for home use. My mother uses it often to check her BP. Its pretty good mostly. About a month ago the irregular heartbeat symbol came on during a routine test. Well the manufacturer's manual said that if it comes on take the measurement again and she did and it was fine. Put it down to a faulty reader. Fast forward to last night. She checks it and the machine again lights up the dreaded symbol. Recheck 5 minutes later and all clear.

This is not an attempt to get medical advice. I just want to ask those who have experience with this thing, how accurate is it? I know home BP machines can sometimes give widely inaccurate readings, is this true for irregular heart beat symbols as well?
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:04 PM
voltaire voltaire is offline
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Can't really answer your question, I'm just wondering if "irregular" means something like a heart-murmur, or that the pulse rate was too variable during the period of measurement.

Does the manual shed any light on what it means?
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:08 PM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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The manual says the symbol will light up if two or more irregular beats are detected during a cycle. The advice is to simply retake the reading and almost as an afterthought they say that if it comes often, see a Doctor.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:15 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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With my machine the irregular heartbeat comes up every once in a while. It often seems to be associated with the cuff being poorly placed on my arm and is usually accompanied by BP readings that are different from what I normally get.

I think that it means that the machine did not hear your pulse well and you should try again.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:24 PM
Simple Linctus Simple Linctus is offline
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I have no expertise here, but there is a common sense position and it is this: That facility is almost certainly there for a reason. If all it did was set off randomly on perfectly healthy individuals and those at death's dorr alike, then it would be completely useless.

Thefore I would definitely be concerned.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:36 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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I don't have any hard numbers, just anecdote...but it's kind of a lot of anecdote, because I use a home model automatic blood pressure cuff 5-10 times a day on a lot of different people. Home health nurse.

Auto BP cuffs are very good at detecting irregular heartbeat in patients who have an irregular heartbeat. Unfortunately, they're also good at detecting an irregular heartbeat in someone who doesn't - someone who wiggles his/her fingers, or coughs, or tenses and relaxes his/her arm or who doesn't have the thing placed correctly. (Yes, the part marked "artery" really does need to be in the neighborhood of the artery. Not right over it, but within an inch or so.)

I would never, ever, use a home BP cuff to diagnose a heart arrhythmia. But if it came up and I checked again after making sure the placement was right and they were still during the check and it still showed an irregular heartbeat, I'd suggest the patient go see their cardiologist and have an EKG done to see what's up. It could be anything from "nothing" to too much caffeine that day to an actual cardiac condition that needs treatment. I would ask them if they're having any other symptoms of dangerous arrhythmias, like feeling their heart racing, feeling fatigued, short of breath, a heavy feeling in their chest, nausea, pain, etc. I'd look carefully at their mouth and nose and fingernails to see if anything was bluish. I'd ask them to walk with me down a long hallway and see if they tire more easily than normal. I'd check their pulse - I'm more worried about an irregular and rapid heartrate than just an irregular one. If anything concerned me at that point, I'd probably suggest they get a ride the ER or urgent care now. If they seemed okay, I'd probably suggest they make an appointment with their MD within the week - but it would depend on their health history, medications and other conditions.
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:43 PM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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So an occasional irregular reading is not that useful especially if the next reading is clear? That what the manual seems to be suggesting.
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  #8  
Old 08-16-2012, 08:33 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
So an occasional irregular reading is not that useful especially if the next reading is clear? That what the manual seems to be suggesting.
Correct.

But if it happens too often (several times a week), I'd bring it up at her next office visit.
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  #9  
Old 08-17-2012, 12:55 PM
outlierrn outlierrn is offline
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I only work with in-hospital equipment, but artifact is a regular occurence there. The machines are designed with a conservative alarm threshold because false positives are better than false negatives.
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Old 08-17-2012, 04:55 PM
Rhaegar Rhaegar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltaire View Post
Can't really answer your question, I'm just wondering if "irregular" means something like a heart-murmur, or that the pulse rate was too variable during the period of measurement.

Does the manual shed any light on what it means?
It is pretty much impossible to detect a heart murmur via a blood pressure machine. The best is with an ECHO, but short of that, listening to the chest with a stethoscope will usually pick it up. BP machines are not going to be very accurate about picking up irregular heart beats. If you palpate your pulse, you can usually feel the irregular heart beats, but bear in mind having the occasional extra beat is pretty normal. If you are still concerned about it, I would get an EKG or better yet a 24 hour Holter monitor test.
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