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Research Note: Utility of Peripheral Pulse Palpation

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Peripheral pulse palpation is often used to assess cardiovascular stability during triage. Pulse quality is determined by the difference between systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Strong peripheral pulses reflect normal or elevated systolic blood pressure or reduced diastolic blood pressure. Weak or absent pulses reflect low systolic blood pressure or arterial clot formation. The utility of peripheral pulse palpation, however, has been controversial. This prospective study compared peripheral pulse quality and Doppler systolic blood pressure in 93 dogs presented to an emergency center. Results indicated that absent dorsal metatarsal pulses had high specificity for hypotension but poor sensitivity (ie, dogs with palpable metatarsal pulses may still be hypotensive). This highlights the importance of evaluating multiple physical parameters to determine cardiovascular stability.

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