Accuracy of Cuff-Measured Blood Pressure: Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Aug 1;70(5):572-586. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.064.


Background: Hypertension (HTN) is the single greatest cardiovascular risk factor worldwide. HTN management is usually guided by brachial cuff blood pressure (BP), but questions have been raised regarding accuracy.

Objectives: This comprehensive analysis determined the accuracy of cuff BP and the consequent effect on BP classification compared with intra-arterial BP reference standards.

Methods: Three individual participant data meta-analyses were conducted among studies (from the 1950s to 2016) that measured intra-arterial aortic BP, intra-arterial brachial BP, and cuff BP.

Results: A total of 74 studies with 3,073 participants were included. Intra-arterial brachial systolic blood pressure (SBP) was higher than aortic values (8.0 mm Hg; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.9 to 10.1 mm Hg; p < 0.0001) and intra-arterial brachial diastolic BP was lower than aortic values (-1.0 mm Hg; 95% CI: -2.0 to -0.1 mm Hg; p = 0.038). Cuff BP underestimated intra-arterial brachial SBP (-5.7 mm Hg; 95% CI: -8.0 to -3.5 mm Hg; p < 0.0001) but overestimated intra-arterial diastolic BP (5.5 mm Hg; 95% CI: 3.5 to 7.5 mm Hg; p < 0.0001). Cuff and intra-arterial aortic SBP showed a small mean difference (0.3 mm Hg; 95% CI: -1.5 to 2.1 mm Hg; p = 0.77) but poor agreement (mean absolute difference 8.0 mm Hg; 95% CI: 7.1 to 8.9 mm Hg). Concordance between BP classification using the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure cuff BP (normal, pre-HTN, and HTN stages 1 and 2) compared with intra-arterial brachial BP was 60%, 50%, 53%, and 80%, and using intra-arterial aortic BP was 79%, 57%, 52%, and 76%, respectively. Using revised intra-arterial thresholds based on cuff BP percentile rank, concordance between BP classification using cuff BP compared with intra-arterial brachial BP was 71%, 66%, 52%, and 76%, and using intra-arterial aortic BP was 74%, 61%, 56%, and 65%, respectively.

Conclusions: Cuff BP has variable accuracy for measuring either brachial or aortic intra-arterial BP, and this adversely influences correct BP classification. These findings indicate that stronger accuracy standards for BP devices may improve cardiovascular risk management.

Keywords: blood pressure determination; hemodynamics; sphygmomanometers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure Determination / instrumentation*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Equipment Design
  • Reproducibility of Results