Thursday, 7 February 2013

The 4 major vital signs

Every health professional should know at least the 4 major vital signs:

1. Body temperature
2. Pulse rate (or heart rate)
3. Blood pressure
4. Respiratory rate

1. Body temperature

Body temperature is the degree of body temperature and represents the balance between the produced and dissipated heat of the body.

The purpose of recording the body temperature is to assess and monitor the condition of the patient.

Normal rates:

Body Temperature 36,2 - 37,2 C
Armpit temperature 36 - 37 C
Rectal temperature 36,5 - 37,5 C

2. Pulse rate

Pulse is the wave produced in peripheral arteries when blood enters the aorta after the contraction of the left ventricle. The wave disappears in arterioles before reaching the capillaries.

The purpose is to assess and monitor the condition of the patient. Palpation of the pulse gives us information about the overall patient's situation, especially for arrhythmia, tachycardia, bradycardia.

Normal rates:

For adult 70 to 80 / 1 minute

More than 100 beats per minute is considered as tachycardia.
Below 60 beats per minute is considered as bradycardia.

Where to measure the pulse:

Radial artery, temporal artery, carotid artery, brachial artery, femoral artery, popliteal artery, dorsal artery of foot, posterior tibial artery.

3. Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood volume exerted on the artery walls. The normal regulation of blood pressure depends on the volume of blood, the elasticity of blood vessels, blood viscosity, the diameter of the vessels and the elasticity of the heart muscle.

Systolic or maximum pressure is the highest blood pressure in the arterial wall and corresponds to the constriction of the left ventricle and the flow of the blood into the aorta.

Diastolic or minimum pressure is the lowest value of blood pressure and corresponds to the phase of the dilation of the ventricles.

Pathological Factors:

Age, sex, body weight, exercise, stress, anxiety, certain medication, certain pathologies.

Normal rates (systolic, diastolic)

Male 20 to 45 years old
110 - 140 mmHg 70 - 90 mmHg

Women 20 to 45 years old
100 - 130 mmHg 60 - 80 mmHg

Children 4 years old
100 mmHg 65 mmHg

80 mmHg 45 mmHg

For elderly people, we can expect a normal range between 120 - 160 mmHg 80 - 100 mmHg due to expected arteriosclerosis.

4. Respiratory rate

Breathing is the uptake and utilization of oxygen and the production and elimination of carbon dioxide from the cells and the body in general.

The frequency of breaths in adults is 14 to 20 breaths / min, while in children it is normally higher.

Breathing is accomplished with breathing movements, the inhalation and exhalation.

Pathological factors:
Age, sex, disease, exercise, stress, environment, certain medications, obesity, talking, crying, laughing, coughing reflex, swallowing etc.

Types of breath

Apnea is the complete suppression of breathing. Immediate treatment with artificial respiration.
Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of difficulty in breathing (shortness of breath).
Tachypnea is common rapid breathing observed in febrile individuals.
Bradypnea is slow breathing. It occurs when there is damage in the respiratory center.

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