What Is Carotid Pulse?

The term "pulse" refers to the rhythmic expansion and contraction of an artery as a result of the beating of the heart. Essentially, the pulse is the tactile representation of the heart's activity, and it can be felt at various points on the body where arteries are close to the skin.

Location and Significance of the Carotid Pulse

The carotid pulse is one of these points and is located in the neck alongside the larynx. Specifically, it's felt along the carotid arteries, which are major blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygenated blood.

Role in Assessing Circulation

The carotid pulse is often checked in emergency situations to quickly assess whether effective circulation is present, especially when other pulse points may be difficult to assess. It's a favored location for checking pulse in unconscious patients and during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for both adults and children.

Importance in Monitoring

For healthcare professionals, the presence, absence, or quality of the carotid pulse can provide vital information about a patient's circulatory status. Strength, rate, and rhythm are all aspects of the pulse that may be monitored.

How to Check the Carotid Pulse


Place the patient in a supine (lying down, face up) position if possible. Tilt the head slightly away from the side you intend to check.

Using the Fingers

Use your index and middle fingers, placing them gently on one side of the patient's trachea (windpipe). Never check both carotid arteries at the same time, as this can compromise blood flow to the brain.

What to Note

Feel for the pulse, taking note of its rate, rhythm, and strength. If the pulse is absent or weak, immediate medical intervention is required.

Clinical Relevance


The absence of a carotid pulse is a grave sign often associated with cardiac arrest or severely compromised circulation. On the other hand, a bounding, unusually strong carotid pulse could be indicative of other cardiovascular issues.

Therapeutic Monitoring

During CPR or other resuscitative measures, the return of a carotid pulse may signify the effectiveness of the intervention, though additional assessments and medical imaging are necessary for a comprehensive evaluation.

The carotid pulse is a critical indicator of circulatory status, especially in emergency situations. Understanding how to locate and assess this pulse point can be an invaluable skill for both healthcare providers and laypersons trained in basic life support techniques.

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