A pulse is the arterial palpation of a heartbeat.
In the average adult, the heart beats between 60-100 a minute.
A pulse slower than 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia.
A pulse faster than 100 beats per minute is called tachycardia.
To take a pulse, use your index and medial finger and count the number of palpitations you feel for a full minute. You can also count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply the number by two for the same result in less time.
NEVER use your thumb to check a pulse as it may cause you to misinterpret your own pulse as that of your patient.
There are several areas in the body you can take a pulse:
The wrist (radial pulse)- This is the most popular location to check a pulse. To find it, place your fingers on the patient’s wrist, just under their thumb.
The foot (pedal and posterior tibial pulses)- Pedal pulses can be difficult to locate. You can find them on the top/mid portion of the foot, as well as behind the inner ankle bone
The groin (femoral pulse)- Femoral pulses are located where the leg meets the trunk. They can be difficult and uncomfortable to locate due to their very personal location.
The head (temporal pulse)- The temporal pulse is located in front of the ears on either side of the head
The neck (carotid pulse)- The carotid pulse can be found under the jaw on either side of the face
The knee (popliteal pulse)- This pulse is located behind your knee and can be very difficult to locate on yourself.
The elbow (brachial pulse)- On adults the brachial pulse can be found on the inside of the elbow.