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We often use a multi-parameters monitor to monitor the victim's pulse, SpO2 and blood pressure1.

When using these devices on children, we have to switch them to 'pediatric mode' first. And for blood pressure we have to install a pediatric cuff of course.

But when monitoring the victim's pulse and BP manually, we do the same way for adults and children - not speaking about infants here as we actually don't take their pulse exactly the same way. Simple saturometers, on their side, are more than frequently said "both pediatric and adult"2 without having to switch from a mode to another3.

So I'm wondering: would using such a multi-parameter monitoring device on children in adult mode give wrong (over or underestimated) values for pulse, sat and/or BP? (So could be dangerous for childrens' health as information would be bad).

I spent quite a lot of time searching without finding.


1 - These devices are also able to monitor ventilation and do 3 or 5-leads ECG using some optional peripherals, but we don't use these features. We take the ventilation visually and we simply don't do ECG.

2 - Here is an example, and here is another.

3 - Not always though. Some are specialized.

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Using this monitoring device on children in adult mode would not give wrong results.

I can see two reasons for using a different mode:

  1. Normal values for pulse and BP are different between adult and pediatric patients (see Blood Pressure Tables for Children and Adolescents), so default alarms would be different
  2. The device measuring the blood pressure will probably function differently in adults and children: on the first attempt, the pressure will rise to a fixed value that is higher in adults and lower in children, because, on average, children have a lower blood pressure (using more pressure than necessary could provoke pain or discomfort in the arm, pain could then increase BP and heart rate). This British Medical Journal article explains how the device works: Oscillatory Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices

Initially, the pressure in the cuff must be higher than the patient's blood pressure, then, the pressure diminishes slowly to get a measurement. The device is guessing the pressure on the first trial, and then it goes higher for the second attempt if the first guess was incorrect, that is, if the patient's blood pressure was higher than the maximal pressure of the cuff.

You could probably get a more thorough and technical explanation by contacting the manufacturer.

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