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How to Perform a Veterinary Indirect Blood Pressure Measurement

Posted by Flavia Vaduva on Aug 1, 2018 11:18:40 AM
Flavia Vaduva
Flavia Vaduva is a general practice Veterinarian and a blogger for VetTechPrep. She has a passion for veterinary medicine, education and business management. She really enjoys interacting with veterinary students and veterinary professionals. She spends her free time riding horses and traveling to explore new places!


Are you a third or fourth year veterinary student on clinics or a first or second year student thinking about what will it be like on clinics? One important minimum database parameter you may have to measure for your patients is their blood pressure. It’s a super important measurement to monitor so make sure your skills are on point! In case you’re a pro that just needs a refresher or if you’re just learning the steps, read below to get an overview of blood pressure measurement via Doppler!

An Important point to note: this method primarily measures systolic blood pressure.

An alternative indirect blood pressure method which provides measurements for systolic, diastolic and mean arterial pressure is the oscillometric method.



Key Point #1: Make sure your patient is as calm as possible before starting

Key Point #2: This procedure requires an appropriately sized cuff that is 40% of the circumference of the area used

Key Point #3: Patient positioning is very important. Patient should usually be in lateral recumbency, sternal recumbency or sitting, depending on which area you are using for cuff placement. Cuff level should be aligned with the level of the right atrium.

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Step 1: Apply correctly measured cuff to either the forelimb, hindlimb or tail. If using a forelimb, usually the cuff is applied at the level of the radius; if using a hindlimb, the cuff is usually applied at the level of the tibia

Step 2: Attach a bulb sphygomanometer to the cuff

Step 3: Shave an area distal to the cuff. This area is usually proximal to the metacarpal or metatarsal pads

Step 4: Apply ultrasound coupling gel to the shaved area, then place Doppler crystal on this area and turn Doppler machine on

Step 5: Listen carefully for pulse sounds. Re-position Doppler crystal until pulse sounds can be heard easily and clearly

Step 6: Holding the Doppler crystal in place, use the bulb sphygomanomter to inflate the cuff until you no longer hear the pulse sounds

Step 7: Next, deflate the cuff slowly until you hear the pulse again. Record this number as your systolic blood pressure measurement

Step 8: Repeat this measurement several times (usually 3-6 times) with at least a minute pause between readings and then average those measurements to get the patient’s systolic blood pressure

Now you will all be pros at Blood Pressure measurement via Doppler. Best of luck on your clinical rotations!


With a Butterfly or over-the-needle Catheter

Download this 8-Step guide on how to perform both methods at the 7th or 8th intercostal space. 

Fill out the form below, and we will email you a link to get your PDF.


References: Clinical Vet Advisor, p.1191
BSAVA Guide to Procedures in Small Animal Practice p. 62-63

Topics: Procedures

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