Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
DIY blood pressure kits get thumbs up
Home testing can avoid white coat hypertension
Patients can be relied upon to take blood pressure readings accurately using home testing kits, scientists have found.
Measuring blood pressure at home is recommended to monitor the on-going effects of treatment and for the 25% of patients who suffer from "white coat hypertension".
This is where a patient's blood pressure rises significantly simply as a reaction to the stress of seeing a doctor, and can lead to patients being misdiagnosed as suffering from hypertension.
However, some doctors are concerned that patients may not measure their blood pressure accurately with home testing kits, or that they may be reluctant to tell doctors about worryingly high readings, either because they fear they have misread the equipment, or because they want to avoid treatment.
A team of researchers led by Dr Edouard Battegay of University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, tested how the equipment was used by 54 patients, who were asked to take twice daily blood pressure readings for 30 days.
They found that 73% of measurements were taken correctly, the British Medical Journal reports.
The readings were checked against automatic recordings within the monitors.
The only people who failed to take accurate readings were those who were poorly educated.
The researchers said: "It is possible but unlikely that poor reporting accuracy of blood pressure measurements taken at home affects the assessment of hypertension."
Dr Battegay told News Online: "The question is can we rely on patients to tell us the truth about the measures they take? Our study showed that we can rely on them in most cases."
Professor Kennedy Lees, a stroke expert based at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, said home testing might increase the number of patients who persevered with medication prescribed by their doctors.
He said: "Home testing allows patients to take charge of their own care.
"Some patients can be reluctant to take medication, but if they see they are achieving something positive they might be more likely to keep taking their tablets."
However, Professor Lees said an increase in home testing was unlikely to uncover many more patients with hypertension that doctors did not already know about, as people motivated to test their own blood pressure were also likely to seek medical opinion.