Radial/Brachial Pulses

Assessing Radial Pulse

  1. Start by finding the thumb side of your wrist. There are some tendons that you should be able to feel as you move your wrist around, they are the tight ones that wiggle when you move your fingers. These attach muscle to bone. They are not what you are looking for.
  2. Now that you’ve found those landmarks, slide your index finger toward the lateral (thumb) side of your wrist.
  3. Depending on an individuals’ anatomy there should be a small groove running up your arm. The groove is bordered by a tendon that you found and the radius bone of the lower arm.
  4. Using just the tips of your index and middle finger, gently press down until you feel a beat. Do not use your thumb to feel a pulse.
  5. Have a watch or clock handy. Count the “thumps” that happen in 15 seconds.
  6. Multiply that by 4 (15 sec x 4 = 1 min)
  7. Here’s an easy trick. Double your initial number. Then double that number. For example, you got 18 beats in your 15 seconds = 36. Then double 36 for 72. The pulse rate is documented as 72 bmp (beats per minute).
  8. Alternatively, you can count for 30 seconds and double the number, or spend an entire minute counting. For pediatrics it is advised to count for 30 or 60 seconds.
  9. IF the pulse is irregular, you must count for the entire minute.
  10.  Record your findings.

Assessing Brachial Pulse

  1. Raise one arm up like you are casually asking a question in class.
  2. Using the index and middle finger of your opposite hand, find the medial (inside) of your upraised upper arm.
  3. Using those fingers, separate your bicep (the one on the front) and triceps (the one on the back) muscles by gently pressing inward until you feel the beat.
  4. Bang! You did it. Good job!
  5. Now count it and write it down as you would for a radial pulse.
Radial/Brachial Pulse Skills Verification Table
Pulse Rate 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (instructor)
Location Assessed

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Oregon EMS Psychomotor Skills Lab Manual Copyright © 2023 by Chris Hamper, BS, NRP; Carmen Curtz, Paramedic, BS; Holly A. Edwins, Paramedic, B.S.; and Jamie Kennel, PhD, MAS, NRP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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