The mercury sphygmomanometer has been in use for over a century. It is the gold standard in indirect blood pressure measurement because it is accurate, easy to maintain and likely to stay calibrated. Its use with the auscultatory technique for blood pressure measurement is described in the 2001 American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines1.
There is, however, a risk of toxic effects when mercury is spilt, which means that mercury sphygmomanometers must be handled with care and, where they are used, health and safety measures must be in place to deal with spills appropriately.
Increasing concerns about mercury contamination have led many people to look for an alternative to the mercury sphygmomanometer. The difficulty has been finding an accurate, reliable alternative and concerns have been expressed by many experts about the replacement of the mercury sphyg in clinical practice with potentially less accurate devices.
Accessed July 5th 2004