Blood Pressure Measurement: calling for an update to century-old technology

Blood Pressure Measurement: calling for an update to century-old technology


Written for the National Post by Dr. Mark Gelfer and Dr. Lyne Cloutier

New improved technologies exist for the accurate measurement of blood pressure, yet in Canada many doctors and clinics are still using a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer – a method to assess blood pressure that was introduced before 1900.

A call for action

Copeman Healthcare’s Dr. Mark Gelfer and Dr. Lyne Cloutier of the University of Quebec at Trois-Riviere, both leading experts in the area of hypertension (high blood pressure), called our attention to this issue in a recent article in the National Post. The problem with this antiquated measurement method means that tens of thousands of Canadians are misdiagnosed with hypertension every year. Since 20% of the adult Canadian population is diagnosed as hypertensive, that’s no small problem.

Healthcare professionals have long known that more accurate technologies exist for measurement, yet it hasn’t been a top priority. Drs. Gelfer and Cloutier are calling for universities, professional associations and governments to take action and make this important transition.

Why it matters

Hypertension has no visible symptoms, making blood pressure measurement the only accurate method of diagnosis.  According to the National Post article, 25% of patients are misdiagnosed as having hypertension when they don’t – due to the ‘white coat syndrome’ – and another 25% have a ‘missed’ diagnosis – this is known as Masked Hypertension. Patients with Masked Hypertension are therefore at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease and are not even aware of it, while the misdiagnosed White-Coat Hypertension patients are unnecessarily treated, often with costly medications. The challenge stems back to the use of the simple sphygmomanometer over improved technologies.

Updated guidelines

Drs. Gelfer and Coultier reported in the National Post that “Hypertension Canada has updated its CHEP Guidelines for the treatment and control of hypertension in order to promote  the current in-office (automated) and out-of-office (ambulatory or home-based) technologies that will help to end  the scourge of hypertension misdiagnosis.”


Government, professional associations and educational institution’s integration of Canada’s best practice guidelines will create a “more cost-effective and focused response to hypertension, which is currently the leading cause of death and disability, both in Canada and around the world.”

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September 25, 2015

National Post