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Anaesthesia. 1996 Feb;51(2):189-91.

The palpation of pulses.

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Shackleton Department of Anaesthetics, Southampton General Hospital.


In 554 anaesthetised patients, the times taken to separately palpate and identify each of the carotid, radial, brachial and femoral pulses were recorded. The patients were divided into three groups based on the form of airway management chosen (tracheal tube, facemask or laryngeal mask airway). Our results demonstrate that in the operating theatre environment the identification of the radial pulse is the most rapid and reliable; by 5 s, 98% and by 10 s, more than 99% of radial pulses were identified. The carotid pulse was not so easily identified, requiring 10 s to enable an identification rate of greater than 95%. The presence of a laryngeal mask airway or a tracheal tube did not hinder the identification of carotid pulse.

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