Quick, accurate shock diagnosis is crucial for emergency patients. Shock results from impaired tissue oxygenation, which can lead to altered cellular function, organ failure, and, if not treated, death. Abnormal or absent peripheral pulses, among the many signs of shock, have been anecdotally correlated with low measured systolic blood pressure (SBP).
This study aimed to quantify the relationship between palpated peripheral pulses and measured SBP. Cats (n = 102) that were presented to a university emergency service were enrolled; those with aortic thromboembolism were excluded. Pulse quality was assessed by the enrolling clinician as strong, moderate, poor, or absent. Blood pressure was measured by trained veterinary nurses with a Doppler flowmeter. Absent metatarsal pulses accurately identified SBP ≤75 mm Hg 84% of the time. Femoral pulse quality strongly correlated with SBP on admission. Overlap of SBPs were found in each pulse quality category. This suggests that pulse quality is highly subjective and may vary with clinician experience; thus, it should not be relied on solely for perfusion assessment. Still, digital palpation of peripheral pulses can help provide information about cats’ blood pressure during triage.