Research Article

Measurement error in the Hawksley random zero sphygmomanometer: what damage has been done and what can we learn?

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 15 May 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:1319
  1. R M Conroy,
  2. E O'Brien,
  3. K O'Malley,
  4. N Atkins
  1. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin.


    The Hawksley random zero sphygmomanometer is used in all aspects of blood pressure research, from clinical trials to evaluation of new blood pressure recorders. It is designed to reduce observer bias in blood pressure measurement. The problem is that it also underestimates blood pressure. Furthermore, this was first reported more than two decades ago. In this paper Rónán Conroy and colleagues explore the consequences of using an inaccurate instrument for important research and why prestigious organisations like the World Health Organisation continue to use it.