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Potain type sphygmomanometer, Paris, France, 1898-1910

A sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure. This example is of a type designed by Charles Potain (1925-1907). It has an aneroid barometer dial showing changes in blood pressure. Modern examples have an inflatable cuff and graduated U tube. Maximum blood pressure is taken using a pelotte, or bulb. This was pressed onto the radial artery in the arm until the pulse disappeared. Potain’s sphygmomanometer differs from earlier examples in that the pelotte contains air, not water. This example belonged to British physician Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916).

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Glossary: pulse

The throbbing of the arteries as blood flows through them. The pulse matches the rate at which the heart is beating.

Glossary: sphygmomanometer

An instrument used by medical staff to measure blood pressure. Usually made up of a cuff which is placed around the arm of a patient, and a measuring unit that shows the patient's blood pressure.

Glossary: blood pressure

The pressure at which blood is pumped around the body, closely related to the heart rate.