Understanding the Apical Pulse: key nursing student guide

Marketing Dept., | 7 min read
Marketing Dept., | 7 min read

When it comes to assessing heart health, the apical pulse is a key measurement that provides valuable insights into cardiac function. Whether you're a healthcare professional or a student learning about vital signs, understanding how to accurately locate and measure the apical pulse is essential. In this blog post, we'll explore what the apical pulse is, how to assess it, and how you can learn more through the informative videos available on JoVE.com.

What is the Apical Pulse?

The apical pulse is the pulse felt at the apex of the heart, located at the fifth intercostal space at the midclavicular line, which is about at the level of the left nipple in adults. This location is where the heart's apex is closest to the chest wall, making it easier to feel or hear the pulse directly. The apical pulse provides a direct measure of cardiac function, helping to assess the heart rate and rhythm accurately.

How to Assess the Apical Pulse?

These are the required equipment needed to assess the apical pulse: Stethoscope, Clock or Watch with a second hand. Please, follow this proccedure:

  1. Position the Patient: Have the patient lie down or sit comfortably. Ensure they are relaxed to get an accurate reading.

  2. Locate the Apical Pulse: Place the stethoscope on the fifth intercostal space at the midclavicular line. For women, it might be necessary to gently move the breast tissue to place the stethoscope correctly.

  3. Auscultation: Listen for the heartbeats using the stethoscope. Each "lub-dub" sound counts as one beat.

  4. Count the Heartbeats: Count the heartbeats for 60 seconds to determine the heart rate. Ensure the count is accurate by focusing and minimizing distractions.

Why is the Apical Pulse Important?

The apical pulse is crucial for several reasons:

  • Heart Rate Assessment: Provides an accurate measure of the heart rate, especially in patients with irregular heartbeats.
  • Cardiac Function: Helps in assessing the strength and rhythm of the heartbeat, crucial for diagnosing various cardiac conditions.
  • Baseline Measurement: Serves as a baseline for comparing with other pulses (like the radial pulse) to detect discrepancies or pulse deficits.


Learning with JoVE.com

JoVE.com offers a wealth of educational videos that can help you master the assessment of the apical pulse. These videos provide step-by-step instructions and visual demonstrations, making it easier to understand and perform the procedure correctly. Here are some resources you can explore:


Understanding and accurately assessing the apical pulse is a fundamental skill in healthcare. It provides vital information about the heart's function and helps in the early detection of cardiac conditions. By using resources like the videos on JoVE.com, you can enhance your learning and ensure better cardiac care for your patients. Whether you're a seasoned healthcare professional or a student, mastering this technique is essential for effective practice.

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