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Heart & Cardiology/Taking heart rate manually vs machine (discrepancies)


I was at a blood drive the other day, and they have one of those machines that measures your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature by just pushing a button. This is supposed to eliminate human error, as I understand it. When I was measured, my bp and temp were normal, but my pulse was 115. They waited 15 minutes, tried it again, and I was at 122. They waited another fifteen minutes and tried it again, and I was at 105. I was very confused because during the wait time, I had taken my radial and carotid pulses manually and got 76. I told the person screening me this, and I asked her to take it manually immediately after the third reading (105). She got 72, about a minute after the machine got 105. She told me that the machines were slightly more accurate, but that this discrepancy was much more than average, and that a 33 point drop in a minute was highly unlikely naturally. She got her supervisor, who said that they had to use the machine readings, the machine was calibrated that morning, and that nobody else had raised any concerns. I was deemed ineligible to donate that day. I am very curious to find out why the machine and palpation results were so different, because I do want to donate blood again. I have before, but mostly they've taken my bp and pulse manually, and every single time, I have been well within normal limits.

Additionally, I have never been diagnosed with a heart problem and I am not on any medication. I do take a daily vitamin. I am also within a healthy weight range for my height, and in my mid-twenties. I would consider myself moderately active, with at least 45 minutes of concentrated exercise 5 times a week on average (walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading), though I do spend a lot of time on the computer.

(I took an EMT class last year, and though I decided not to get certified, it did make me want to go into medicine, so feel free to use technical terms if needed to clarify your answer.)

Hi Alice,
Your heart rate is what it is, either 72 or 110 and I cannot tell you from here which one is correct - have it checked by your doctor. If indeed 100+ that is too fast a rate for most people and it might need to be further investigated, starting with an EKG.
Read more here:
Hope this helps,
Dr T

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