When palpating the radial pulse, you are feeling for the radial artery that comes close to the surface on the lateral side of the inner forearm just before the wrist. To obtain a radial pulse:
- Place the tips of two to three fingers, (usually your index, middle, and ring finger if you use three) just proximal to the patients wrist on the thumb side, orienting them so that they are both over the length of the vessel.
- Press your fingers in the groove between the lateral edge of the distal radius, and the wrist tendons, close to the wrist
- Lighten your pressure if you are having difficulty
The radial pulse is the most common initial pulse point to check in a conscious patient, it is also an essential check in verifying the Circulation/Motor/Sensory status of an injured limb.
- As part of the primary assessment it is helpful to feel both radial arteries simultaneously to detect asymmetries in strength.
- In an unconscious patient, or one who appears to be in shock, the carotid pulse should be your first check.