The demise of the mercury sphygmomanometer in clinical practice has been discussed and debated for over 10 years.
Until recently they could still be sold for professional use in the healthcare sector. However, since 10 April 2014 and the implementation of EU Commission regulation no 847/2012 the sale of mercury-containing sphygmomanometers to the healthcare sector, is now prohibited.
The exception is where new sphygmomanometers will be used in ongoing epidemiological studies or as reference standards in clinical validation studies of mercury-free sphygmomanometers.
Despite this and as recently as December 2013, the MHRA were still recommending that calibrated, non-mercury devices, which are not automatic, should be made available in all clinical areas.
They should be used to check automatic device results and should also be used in clinical conditions where automatic monitors may be inappropriate e.g. arrhythmia, pre-eclampsia or specific vascular disease.
This presents the Practice Manager and Clinician with a potential dilemma. How do they comply with the MHRA guidelines?
Fortunately for Clinicians with the right training and skillset, there are a number of manual devices available which include shock resistant aneroid sphygmomanometers (ERKA Switch) and manual electronic devices like the A&D Medical UM-101A which have the same look and feel as Mercury.
Assuming Clinicians are comfortable using the Auscultation (manual) technique of recording blood pressure with a stethoscope, then a new generation of hybrid devices like the Omron HBP-1300 are now also available.
These new devices are designed specifically with the professional user in mind. During an automatic measurement if the Irregular Pulse Wave symbol feature is indicated, the user can switch to manual mode and use a stethoscope to verify a reading is accurate without having to change device or cuff.
This is in line with MHRA recommendations.
Mercury sphygmomanometers have not been banned but new ones cannot now be purchased for general clinical use. That doesn’t mean the end of manual readings which in certain clinical situations may be required.
Suitable alternative clinically validated mercury free sphygmomanometers are available, so clinicians do still have a choice.
New hybrid automatic and manual blood pressure monitors specifically designed for the professional market are now available. They offer the advantage of a clinically validated automatic measurement or back up of a manual measurement where circumstances dictate.