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Measuring Pulse Rate
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Tests to be performed - Radial pulse rate measurement

- Appropriate analog or digital clock positioned in clear view

Expected findings
- Normal pulse rate for age and fitness level

Testing procedures
  1. Sit or stand facing your patient.
  2. Position the patient in a comfortable position and support the extremity with your arm, the exam table, or bed.
  3. Locate the radial artery with your index and middle fingers.
  4. Using the first and second fingers, press firmly on the arterial site.
  5. Once you feel the arterial pulse wave, begin counting for 15, 30, or 60 seconds as described above, and multiply as needed.
  6. Concentrate on the regularity and volume of the pulse wave once the quantity has been determined.
  7. Repeat on the contralateral arterial site, and repeat if necessary.
  8. Document your findings.
Clinical notes
  • Good clinical habits include evaluating pulses bilaterally. However, it is not advised to check both carotid arteries at the same time due to possible induction of a syncopal (i.e., fainting) episode.
  • Be careful when checking the carotid pulse on older adults as pressing too hard can result in dizziness and risk of injury from falling.
  • If applicable, grasp the patient's wrist with your non-watch wearing hand.
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Section: Measuring Pulse Rate
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