Chapter 3: Pulse and Respiration
Why is Pulse Measured?
Healthcare providers measure pulse because it provides information about a client’s state of health and influences diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision-making.
Tachycardia refers to an elevated heart rate, typically above 100 bpm (OER #2) for an adult. Developmental considerations are important to consider, such as higher resting pulse rates in infants and children. For adults, tachycardia is not normal in a resting state but may be detected in pregnant women or individuals experiencing extreme stress (OER #2). Tachycardia can be benign, such as when the sympathetic nervous system is activated with exercise and stress. Caffeine intake and nicotine can also elevate the heart rate. Tachycardia is also correlated with fever, anemia, hypoxia, hyperthyroidism, hypersecretion of catecholamines, some cardiomyopathies, some disorders of the valves, and acute exposure to radiation (OER #2).
Bradycardia is a condition in which the resting heart rate drops below 60 bpm (OER #2) in adults. In newborns, a resting heart rate below 100 bpm is considered bradycardia. However, a sleeping neonate’s pulse may be as low as 90 bpm. People who are physically fit (e.g., trained athletes) typically have lower heart rates (OER #2). If the client is not exhibiting other symptoms, such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, chest discomfort, palpitations, or respiratory distress, bradycardia is generally not considered clinically significant (OER #2). However, if any of these symptoms are present, this may indicate that the heart is not providing sufficient oxygenated blood to the tissues (OER #2). Bradycardia can be related to an electrical issue of the heart, ischemia, metabolic disorders, pathologies of the endocrine system, electrolyte imbalances, neurological disorders, prescription medications, and prolonged bedrest, among other conditions (OER #2). Bradycardia is also related to some medications, such as beta blockers and digoxin.
It is vital that healthcare providers assess clients with tachycardia or bradycardia to determine whether the findings are significant and require intervention.
Part of this content was adapted from OER #2 (as noted in brackets above):
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