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Ambulatory Blood Pressure Unit (ABU)

anbuHigh blood pressure (BP) puts an increased load on the heart, brain, kidneys and other organs. If untreated, it can lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. High BP usually has no symptoms, so accurate diagnosis by screening is very important.

Blood pressure monitoring can be very helpful to determine if a person does have genuinely high BP (it is often higher than normal under stressful conditions, such as visiting the doctor - known as 'white coat hypertension'), or to see how well the BP is controlled by treatment.

An ambulatory monitor takes about 40 BP readings over 24 hours, and can show the maximum, minimum and average BP at different times of the day. This can be very helpful in tailoring the best type, and the timing of BP treatment.

The ABU procedure

Ambulatory blood pressure (ABU) monitors are small, battery-powered units that take blood pressure and heart rate measurements for 24 hours. The unit sits in a pouch strapped around the waist, and attaches via rubber tubing to an inflatable cuff, which is wrapped around the upper arm. The recorder inflates the cuff to measure the blood pressure then deflates the cuff again. The cuff can feel quite tight around the arm when inflated, but is not painful.

Our nurse will explain the whole procedure and fit the monitor, which takes approximately 20 minutes. No special preparations are necessary for the test, but it is sensible to wear a loose fitting top or jacket if possible. A diary can be filled in, so that BP changes can be correlated with activity during the 24 hour period. Removing the monitor the next day takes only a few minutes. It is not possible to shower or bathe while wearing the unit.

A report is prepared showing a graph of the individual blood pressures, as well as the average, maximum and minimum BP during the day and at night. A copy of the report is sent to the referring doctor (and to the patient themselves on request) with a letter summarising the findings and making a recommendation about follow up treatment. This is usually done within 2-4 days of the test being completed.

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