WHAT IS A PULSE?
A pulse is when the left ventricle of the heart contracts. When this happens,
blood is suddenly pushed from the ventricle to the main artery (aorta). This sudden
forcing of blood from the heart into the arteries causes two things to happen.
a. Artery Expansion. The sudden rush of blood increases the volume of blood
in the arteries. In order to accept this increased volume, the arteries expand (stretch).
As the arteries quickly contract (go back to normal size), blood is forced from the
arteries, through the capillaries, and into the veins.
b. Pulse. In addition to the expansion of the arteries, a "wave" travels through
the arteries. This wave is the pulse. All arteries have a pulse, but the pulse is easier to
feel (palpate) when the artery is near the surface of the body.
WHAT IS PULSE RATE?
The pulse rate is the number of times that you can feel a pulse wave passing a
point in one minute. Since a pulse wave occurs whenever the heart beats, the pulse
rate equals the heartbeat rate. However, "taking a patient's pulse" means more than
just determining his pulse rate. It also includes noting certain other factors about the
WHAT FACTORS ARE NOTED WHEN TAKING A PATIENT'S PULSE?
When taking a patient's pulse, you should note the patient's pulse rate, the
strength of the pulse, and the regularity of the pulse. Most of the pulse characteristics
discussed in this paragraph are illustrated in figure 3-1.
a. Pulse Rate.
(1) The normal adult has a pulse rate of about 72 beats each minute.
Infants have higher average pulse rates. The normal pulse rate ranges based upon age
are given below.
(a) Adults: 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Children: 70 to 120 beats per minute.
Toddlers: 90 to 150 beats per minute.
(d) Newborns: 120 to 160 beats per minute.