Introduction: How to Measure Radial Pulse
Pulse, or the tangible beating of the heart, is used by medical professionals to determine a patient’s heart rate. It is measured in beats per minute (bpm) and can indicate the general health or fitness level of a patient.
Resting heart rate is taken when a calm individual is sitting or lying down. A normal resting heart rate for an adult is between sixty and one hundred bpm. High resting heart rate may be caused by exercise, illness, certain medications, heart disease, and stress. On the other hand, various medicines and a high level of fitness can cause low resting heart rate.
Pulse can be felt through the skin in the wrist, neck, elbow, or foot. This tutorial highlights the measurement of pulse through the radial artery in the wrist. This specific pulse is called the radial pulse.
In order to measure radial pulse, the heart rate must be counted for at least fifteen seconds. However, it can also be measured for twenty, thirty, or sixty seconds. If you are measuring a pulse for fifteen, twenty, or thirty seconds, you must multiply the number you count by four, three, or two, respectively, to calculate the heart rate in bpm. This Instructable carries out the measurement of the radial pulse for fifteen seconds.
You do not need any background experience in medicine to perform this procedure, and you should be able to complete these instructions in five minutes or less. Although the instructions walk you through measuring the pulse of another person, you may measure your own pulse. To do this, follow the directions using yourself as the patient.
For this Instructable, you need:
- A volunteer (optional)
- A stopwatch or a watch with a second hand
- A calculator
Step 1: Prepare Patient
- In a quiet room, make sure the patient is sitting down and relaxed. If not, ask the patient to sit down and wait a couple of minutes to ensure his or her heart rate is at its resting rate.
- Straighten the patient’s elbow and face the inside of his or her wrist upward as shown in Figure 1.
Step 2: Position Fingers
- Position the index and middle fingers of your dominant hand so the tips of the two fingers align. An example of this can be seen in Figure 2.
Step 3: Locate the Hollow Space
- Ask the patient to form a fist and bend his or her wrist as shown in Figure 3. In this position, you should see a ligament elevated underneath the skin.
- As demonstrated in Figure 4, place your fingers next to this ligament on the same side as the patient's thumb. Here, you should feel a hollow, soft space.
- If your fingers are on the hard surface of the wrist bones, move them down and along the ligament until they reach a softer area.
Step 4: Locate the Radial Artery
- Keeping your fingers in place, ask the patient to relax his or her hand.
- As shown in Figure 5, press your fingers into the hollow space to feel the radial artery beneath the skin.
- If you cannot feel the pulse, press a little harder, being careful not to hurt the patient.
- If you are still having trouble locating the radial artery, slide your fingers up and along the ligament until you reach the bottom of the wrist bones. At the point where the hollow space meets the wrist bones, the pulse is easier to feel.
Step 5: Count Radial Pulse
- Start the time and count the beats of the pulse.
- If you are using a watch, it may be easier to wait for the second hand to reach the 12, 3, 6, or 9 position. Once you are comfortable with the position of the second hand, start counting.
- After fifteen seconds, stop counting.
Step 6: Convert to Beats Per Minute
- Using a calculator, multiply the number you counted by four to convert it to bpm.
- For example, if you counted eighteen heart beats, multiply eighteen by four. This would give you seventy-two bpm (Figure 6).
Step 7: Learn More
- Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your heart health.
- If you wish to learn more about heart rate and other vital signs, see the links below.
- Click here to view the American Heart Association's arrhythmia page. The webpage includes information on the importance, symptoms, and treatment of an abnormal heart rhythm.
- Click here to view information from Johns Hopkins Medicine about vital signs. This page covers the importance and measurement of basic body functions such as temperature, pulse, respiration rate, and blood pressure.
- Click here to view a video from the Mayo Clinic on how to measure blood pressure. To follow along with the video, you need a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.