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Vital Signs

:
Consists of four measurements: Temperature, pulse, respirations, and blood pressure.
Two additional measures are considered vital signs: Peripheral Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) and pain
intensity. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations in the U.S. has
recommended that pain intensity be considered the 5th Vital Sign.
Abbreviation = vitals
* Temp: 99
* Pulse: 87
* Respiratory Rate: 16
* Blood Pressure (BP): 167/110
When recording vital signs it is common to simply indicate the numbers in the order of temperature (temp),
pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure (BP).
 A nurse would say: “The patient’s vitals are temp 99, pulse 87, respiratory rate 16, and BP
167/110.”
 A nurse would write: 99-87-16 167/110
Temperature:
Body temperature is measured in the mouth, ear, axilla, or rectum. In the United States, it is usually
expressed in degrees of Fahrenheit. Abbreviation = temp










BEYOND THE BASICS: Febrile
Febrile: Having or showing an elevation of body temperature above the normal temperature of 98.6
degrees F or 37 degrees C. A person develops a fever (a noun) and is described as febrile (an
adjective).
The progress note indicated the patient was exposed to a influenza, and developed a body temperature of
102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsius) and then experienced difficulty breathing. This pt is: Febrile.
BEYOND THE BASICS: Hypothermia
Hypothermia Body temperature below 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C induced by exposure to cold,
failure of body mechanisms to control heat loss, or therapeutic treatment wherein body temperature
is lowered to decrease metabolism.
BEYOND THE BASICS: Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia Prolonged elevation of body temperature to 100-101 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5-38.3
degrees C usually due to prolonged exposure to heat. Sometimes referred to as heat exhaustion or
heat stroke.
IMPORTANT
Fever vs. Hyperthermia
Fever is common and often caused by infection resulting
in internal reactions including increased core body
temperature.
Hyperthermia is less common and caused by drugs with
the side effect of hyperthermia or from prolonged
exposure to external heat and inability to dissipate heat.
Pulse:
Palpable lift in an artery usually felt (manually) or detected
electronically at a point where the pulse is near the surface of
the body.










Important
Only one carotid pulse should be felt at a time.
Feeling both carotids, both sides of the neck, at the same time is very dangerous.
You should not feel high on the neck. Stay close to the clavicle/ collar bone when assessing.
BEYOND THE BASICS: Character of a pulse
Thready: Pulse is very soft; barely perceptible
Example: The pulse was very rapid and thready; soon the pulse became irregular as the patient’s
condition deteriorated.
BEYOND THE BASICS: Character of a pulse
Bounding: Pulse rises forcefully in the artery and can be clearly felt on palpation.
Example: As intracranial pressure increased, the pulse became bounding and the pulse rate
decreased.
Respirations -or- Respiratory Rate:
The number of times the patient breathes in and out over one minute.
Abbreviation = respirations // rr (written)
BEYOND THE BASICS: Dyspnea
Dyspnea: When the patient feels that they are unable to breathe well or breathe in enough air or
oxygen.
SOB
In written communication this abbreviation is used to note Short of Breath, which is frequently used
instead of dyspnea.
BEYOND THE BASICS: Apnea
Apnea: Temporary stopping or cessation of breathing
BEYOND THE BASICS: Pulse Oximetry
Pulse oximetry: A measure of oxygen saturation in the arterial
blood often reported with vital signs as SpO2 (saturation of
peripheral oxygen). A pulse ox reading is obtained using a small
portable non-invasive device placed on the patient’s finger tip or
earlobe.
Abbreviation = pulse ox
Normal: 98 %
BEYOND THE BASICS: Arterial Oxygen Saturation
Arterial Oxygen Saturation A measure of the oxygen
saturation level in the bloodstream. This measure is read
from a pulse ox machine or on the monitor.
Abbreviation = SpO2
Also known as: Saturation or sat (common verbalization)

TPR:
A common abbreviation using the first letter of temperature, pulse, and respirations. It is more common in
written communication but can often be heard in conversation
TPR: temp 101, pulse 90 and rr 26
-or-
TPR = 101 – 90 – 26
Blood Pressure:
The pressure of blood flow on the walls of the arteries.
Abbreviation = BP
Blood Pressure Cuff: Commonly used to refer to the instrument consisting
of the cuff, tubing, and a meter which provides a measure of pressure of the
blood flow against the walls of the arteries. Also known as a
sphygmomanometer, but this term is rarely used. Abbreviation = BP cuff
Traditional mercury manometer




Aneroid Digital
BEYOND THE BASICS: Systolic
Systolic: Measurement of the pressure of blood flow against the arterial walls as the left ventricle
contracts. See: 120 ⁄ 84 120 is the systolic BP
BEYOND THE BASICS: Diastolic
Diastolic: Measurement of the pressure of blood flow against the arterial walls during the period
when the heart is at rest between contractions.
See: 120 ⁄ 84 84 is the diastolic BP
Note: A normal range of BP is 90-140 / 60-90

BEYOND THE BASICS: Hypertension
Hypertension (noun): A disease where blood pressure is elevated, usually a systolic reading over
140 or a diastolic reading over 90 is considered hypertension.
Abbreviation = HTN (seen only in written form)
Hypertensive (adjective) Ex: A hypertensive crisis or emergency is sustained blood pressure above
180 systolic and 120 diastolic.

BEYOND THE BASICS: Hypotension
Hypotension: Systolic blood pressure below 90 and diastolic blood pressure below 60.
Orthostatic Hypotension: Lowering of BP when the patient moves from recumbent (lying down)
position to standing (erect) position. This is also termed postural hypotension.
Example: The patient complains of dizziness when getting out of bed. He may be experiencing
orthostatic hypotension.

BEYOND THE BASICS: vital signs cart
Vital signs cart: The newest equipment for obtaining vital signs is the vital
signs cart. BP, pulse, temperature, and SpO2 are measured and results appear
on a screen.
Abbreviation: vitals cart