Inter-arm blood pressure difference in type 2 diabetes: A barrier to effective management?

Christopher E. Clark, Colin J. Greaves, Philip H. Evans, Andy Dickens, John L. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies have identified a substantial prevalence of a blood pressure difference between arms in various populations, but not patients with type 2 diabetes. Recognition of such a difference would be important as a potential cause of underestimation of blood pressure. Aim: To measure prevalence of an inter-arm blood pressure difference in patients with type 2 diabetes, and to estimate how frequently blood pressure measurements could be erroneously underestimated if an inter-arm difference is unrecognised. Design of study: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Five surgeries covered by three general practices, Devon, England. Method: Patients with type 2 diabetes underwent bilateral simultaneous blood pressure measurements using a validated protocol. Mean blood pressures were calculated for each arm to derive mean systolic and diastolic differences, and to estimate point prevalence of predefined magnitudes of difference. Results: A total of 101 participants were recruited. Mean age was 66 years (standard deviation [SD] = 13.9 years); 59% were male, and mean blood pressure was 138/79 mmHg (SD = 15/10 mmHg). Ten participants (10%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4 to 16) had a systolic inter-arm difference ≥10 mmHg; 29 (29%; 95% CI = 20 to 38) had a diastolic difference ≥5 mmHg; and three (3%; 95% CI = 0 to 6) a diastolic difference ≥10 mmHg. No confounding variable was observed to account for the magnitude of an inter-arm difference. Conclusion: A systolic inter-arm difference ≥10 mmHg was observed in 10% of patients with diabetes. Failure to recognise this would misclassify half of these as normotensive rather than hypertensive using the lower-reading arm. New patients with type 2 diabetes should be screened for an inter-arm blood pressure difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-432
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number563
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Inter-arm difference
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


Dive into the research topics of 'Inter-arm blood pressure difference in type 2 diabetes: A barrier to effective management?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this