How sensitive are cardiac surgeons' fingers?

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1685
  1. G D Angelini, professora,
  2. M B Izzat, research registrara,
  3. A J Bryan, junior lecturer Centre for Public Health Studies, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff CF4 4XNa,
  4. R R West, RR West, readera
  1. a Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Bristol, Bristol BS2 8HW
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Angelini.

    During open heart surgery for many years surgeons have used estimates of arterial and pulmonary artery pressure from direct digital palpation despite the array of monitoring equipment that is in evidence at the time of the operation. The reasons for this range from disbelief in the accuracy of often ancient monitoring equipment to the not uncommonly seen difference between central aortic pressure and peripheral radial artery pressure after cardiopulmonary bypass.1 2 Claims by cardiac surgeons that their digital estimates of pressure may be accurate are often greeted with derision by their anaesthetic and junior surgical colleagues. The purpose of this study was to investigate the accuracy of blood pressure estimation by digital palpation of major vessels during heart surgery by different grades of surgical staff.

    Methods and results

    Subjects were the cardiac surgical staff of one consultant firm. The study was carried out during 18 consecutive open heart operations. After cardiopulmonary …

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