Physical Examination – Pulses (Pulse Testing)

Location and name of pulses:

Upper Extremity

  • Brachial: On the anterior of the fold of the elbow
  • Radial: On the thumb side of the wrist
  • Ulnar: On the pinky side of the wrist

Lower Extremity

  • Femoral: In the crease of the hip (when you bend over)
  • Popliteal: Very difficult to find. Fairly deep, slightly medial of dead center in posterior knee.
  • Anterior tibial: Find the tibia (front of the shin), and feel along the lateral edge of the bone (with the tibialis anterior muscle). Easiest to feel about halfway down the shin.
  • Dorsalis pedis: On the top of the foot, about 1/3 of the way to the toes, feel for the bony prominence on the medial side of the dorsum
  • Posterior tibial: On the medial ankle, find the bony prominence (the medial malleolus). Roll your finger towards the angle of the heel, and feel for the pulse. Posterior tibial artery – branch of popliteal.

Head & Neck

  • Common carotid: Find the bottom part of the lateral edge of the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple), then feel 1-2 cm lateral to that. Common carotid artery – branch of aorta on the left, brachiocephalic trunk on the right.
  • External carotid: About 2 cm anterior of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, along the fold of the jaw (the crease made when you put your chin to your chest).
  • External carotid artery: branch of common carotid artery.
  • Temporal: Find the top part of the ear that is attached to your face (usually level with the angle of the eye), and about 1 cm anterior is the pulse.