Arterial pulse

Arterial pulse is a wave or impulse set up by cardiac systole, which advances through the arterial tree. The pressure wave expands the arterial walls as it advances, and the expansion is felt as the pulse. The pulse is usually felt over the radial artery at the wrist, because of its superficial position and ease of palpation.


The pulse is a pressure wave and does not represent the column of blood ejected from the heart during systole. During systole the left ventricle pumps blood into the aorta, which not only moves blood in the vessels forward but also sets up a pressure wave which travels through the arteries in the peripheral direction. The wave is transmitted down the vessels at a velocity 10-15 times greater than the velocity of the ejected blood column and thus travels way ahead of the blood flow.

Site of evaluation

Usually the pulse is evaluated over the radial artery at the wrist, but any artery which is superficial and is lying against a bone can be used. The common sites or arteries used during routine medical examination are
  • Carotid pulse
  • Brachial pulse
  • Radial pulse
  • Femoral pulse
  • Popliteal pulse
  • Posterior tibial pulse
  • Dorsalis pedis pulse

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