To record the success rate of veterinary professionals and students at identifying
the pulse in conscious and anaesthetized dogs. To explore the influence of clinical
experience, pulse location, anaesthesia and likely confounding variables on the success
of pulse palpation.
Prospective, observational, randomized study.
A total of 54 client-owned dogs scheduled for general anaesthesia.
For each dog, three participants (senior anaesthetist, anaesthesia resident/nurse,
veterinary student/animal care assistant) attempted pulse palpation at three locations
(femoral, radial and dorsal pedal pulse) in conscious and anaesthetized dogs. The
time to pulse palpation was measured with a stopwatch for each attempt and data were
modelled using a multivariate Cox regression survival analysis (significance p < 0.05).
The overall success rate of pulse palpation was 77%, with a median time of 10.91 seconds
(interquartile range 9.09 seconds). Success rate was lower in conscious dogs (67%)
than in anaesthetized dogs (87%). There was a 77% lower likelihood of success at the
radial than at the femoral pulse [hazard ratio (HR) 0.23, 95% confidence interval
(CI) 0.38–0.69, p < 0.001]. Veterinary students/animal care assistants had a 71% lower likelihood of
success than senior anaesthetists (HR 0.29, 95% CI 0.22–0.39, p < 0.001). Age, weight and American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status had
no significant influence. Premedication/anaesthetic drugs, heart rate or mean arterial
pressure had no significant influence on the time to pulse palpation in anaesthetized
dogs. The median time to palpation was less than 10 seconds for all experience groups
at the femoral location.
Palpation of the femoral location had the greatest likelihood of success with the
least amount of time. Monitoring the femoral pulse during induction of anaesthesia
is suggested as a method for confirming spontaneous circulation. Pulse palpation improves
with clinical experience.