How To Check Pulse On Neck?

When it comes to assessing a person's pulse in an emergency situation, knowing how to check the carotid pulse on the neck is a critical skill. If you're certified by MyCPR NOW, you understand the importance of quick and accurate pulse assessment as part of the life-saving techniques you've learned. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of checking the carotid pulse on the neck, ensuring you have the knowledge and confidence to respond effectively when it matters most.

Why Check the Carotid Pulse?

The carotid pulse is one of the primary pulse points used to assess a person's heartbeat and circulation. It is located on either side of the neck, next to the windpipe (trachea), and provides a strong and easily accessible pulse for evaluation. Checking the carotid pulse allows you to determine if the heart is beating and pumping blood effectively, which is crucial in emergency situations.

Here are the key reasons why checking the carotid pulse is important:

  1. Assessing Circulation: The carotid pulse provides valuable information about the person's overall circulation. A strong and regular carotid pulse indicates good blood flow, while a weak or irregular pulse may suggest circulation problems.
  2. Response Evaluation: After performing CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) or other life-saving interventions, checking the carotid pulse helps you assess the effectiveness of your actions. An improved or more regular pulse can be a positive sign that your interventions are working.
  3. Determining Heart Rate: The carotid pulse rate (number of beats per minute) allows you to determine the person's heart rate. Abnormally high or low rates can indicate various medical conditions or emergencies.
  4. Informed Decision-Making: When you're the first responder in an emergency, knowing how to check the carotid pulse helps you make informed decisions about the necessary actions to take. It guides you in deciding whether to perform CPR, provide first aid, or call for professional medical help.

Steps to Check the Carotid Pulse

Checking the carotid pulse on the neck is a straightforward process, but it requires precision and attention to detail. Here's how to do it:

1. Prepare and Position Yourself

  • Ensure that the person is lying on their back or is in a stable position where you can safely access their neck.
  • Position yourself at the person's side or in front of them, so you have a clear view and access to their neck.

2. Locate the Carotid Artery

  • Use your index and middle fingers to locate the carotid artery on either side of the neck. It's important to note that you should never use your thumb for this task, as the thumb has its own pulse, which could lead to inaccurate readings.
  • Gently place your fingers on the side of the neck, between the windpipe and the muscles. Apply slight pressure until you feel the pulse.

3. Assess the Carotid Pulse

While checking the carotid pulse, pay close attention to the following:

  • Rate: Count the number of beats (pulses) for a full minute to determine the pulse rate. Alternatively, you can count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to get the beats per minute. A normal adult pulse rate typically falls between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
  • Rhythm: Assess whether the pulse is regular, with consistent intervals between beats, or if it's irregular. An irregular carotid pulse may indicate an underlying heart condition.
  • Strength: Evaluate the strength of the carotid pulse. Is it strong and easily felt, or is it weak and difficult to detect? A weak pulse could suggest poor circulation or shock.

4. Document Your Findings

It's essential to record your findings accurately. Note the pulse rate, rhythm, and strength. Documenting this information can be valuable for medical professionals who may arrive later to provide care.

When to Check the Carotid Pulse

Knowing when to check the carotid pulse is crucial for timely assessment in emergency situations:

  • Unconsciousness: If someone is unconscious, check their carotid pulse to determine if they have a heartbeat. If not, you may need to perform CPR immediately.
  • Cardiac Arrest: In cases of suspected cardiac arrest, checking the carotid pulse is a critical step to confirm whether the heart has stopped beating.
  • After an Injury: After someone has sustained a severe injury or trauma, checking their carotid pulse can help assess their overall condition and the effectiveness of any administered first aid.
  • During CPR: When performing CPR, check the carotid pulse before starting compressions and periodically during the process to assess its effectiveness.


Knowing how to check the carotid pulse on the neck is a skill that can save lives in emergency situations. As someone certified by MyCPR NOW, you understand the significance of this skill in assessing a person's circulation and making informed decisions about their care.

Remember to stay calm and focused when checking the carotid pulse, use proper technique, and document your findings accurately. Regular practice and ongoing education in CPR and first aid can help you maintain and enhance this critical skill, ensuring that you can respond effectively and confidently when it matters most.

By mastering the art of checking the carotid pulse, you become a capable and prepared individual, ready to make a positive impact in times of crisis and contribute to the well-being of those around you.

 CPR + First Aid Certification

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