Apical vs Radial Pulse: Difference and Comparison

The human body is a complex system that works with the proper synchronization of each and every part of it, no matter how small or big it is.

The arteries and veins are so important that they can even help in the diagnosis of diseases. Although Apical and Radial Pulse are two very different arenas, people still sometimes fail to differentiate the two.

Key Takeaways

  1. The apical pulse is the heartbeat measured at the apex of the heart using a stethoscope. In contrast, a radial pulse is a heartbeat measured at the radial artery in the wrist using the fingertips.
  2. The apical pulse is more accurate for detecting irregular heartbeats and measuring heart rate, while the radial pulse is easier and quicker to measure.
  3. Healthcare professionals use apical pulses for infants and patients with certain cardiac conditions, while the radial pulse is used for routine monitoring and first aid.

Apical vs Radial Pulse

The difference between Apical and Radial Impulse is that the apical muscle can be felt on the left side of a person’s heart or chest, whereas the radial pulse is felt at the wrist. The diagnosis with these two impulses often helps in detecting problems with the heart or any other heart-related problem.

Apical vs Radial Pulse

The Apical pulse is not the one that is felt on the wrist. Instead, it can be felt over the heart at the left side of the chest. It is the best way to figure out heart contractions. It is still not helpful in measuring blood pressure. 

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Radial Pulse is the pulse that can be felt at our wrist. Mostly, doctors hold the patient’s wrist to feel the radial pulse and understand the blood pressure.

Although, if the heart pumps blood very slowly, then the radial pulse can be very hard to detect or could even be lost.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonApical PulseRadial Pulse
LocationOver the heart at the left side of the chest.It can be felt at the wrist.
SoundIt can be heard along with faint heart murmur sounds.It can only be felt and no sound can be heard.
HeartIt is the most accurate way to figure out heart contractions.It is not a great way to figure out heart contractions.
Blood PressureIt is not helpful in measuring blood pressure.It is helpful in measuring blood pressure.
Abnormality IndicationsHeart abnormality, heart disease, or an overactive thyroid gland.Artery blockage can be a reason for an abnormal radial pulse.

What is Apical Pulse?

The apical pulse of the body is present over the apex of the heart, just at the left side of the chest. It can be easily hurt sometimes, along with little or low murmur sounds of the heart.

Although it cannot be used in order to measure blood pressure, it is still useful in getting the most accurate idea of heart contractions.

Whenever there is an abnormality in the impulse of the apical pulse, it means that there is some problem in the functionality of the heart.

Normality can be an indication of heart disease, an overactive thyroid gland or heart failure. There are certain medications that can also affect the apical pulse rate, which includes antidysrhythmic medications and beta-blockers. 

There is also a term known as pulse deficit which comes into play when the doctor figures out any abnormality in the apical pulse.

To calculate pulse deficit, one needs to know both the radial as well as apical pulse measurement, and these must be taken simultaneously. After this, the value of pulse deficit is calculated by subtracting radial pulse rate from apical pulse rate.

If the pulse deficit comes out to be zero, it means that there is no problematic medical condition, but if it is non-zero, it might be a signal of some cardiac abnormality that needs to be diagnosed.

What is Radial Pulse?

Unlike the apical pulse, the radial pulse is present and can be felt on the wrist. Many times when we visit a doctor, the first thing they check is our pulse by holding our wrist and counting the pulse for approximately a minute.

This is to count the number of times a pulse beats in a minute, and this number can briefly give an idea about the health condition of the patient.

The radial impulse cannot be heard but only felt and also tells the speed with which our heart is pumping blood. Even though it gives a good idea of heart rate, it is not a great way to figure out heart contractions.

It is very helpful in measuring a person’s blood pressure. 

Any abnormality in the radial impulse might be an indication of an artery blockage.

Although it is not a fairy accident hue of diagnosing disease since sometimes the radial impulse becomes so faint that it is not felt on the rest and therefore the apical impulse is seen as a much more accurate way of figuring out heart contractions. 

radial pulse

Main Differences Between Apical and Radial Pulse

  1. Apical pulse can be felt over the heart at the apex on the left side of the chest, while Radial pulse can be felt at the wrist.
  2. Apical pulse can be heard along with little, faint murmurs of the heart, whereas radial pulse cannot be heard but just felt.
  3. An apical pulse gives the most accurate idea of heart contractions. On the other hand, the radial pulse is not very helpful in figuring out heart contractions.
  4. The apical pulse is not helpful in measuring blood pressure. The radial pulse is helpful in measuring blood pressure.
  5. Heart abnormalities, heart diseases, or an overactive thyroid gland can be a reason for an abnormal apical pulse. On the other hand, artery blockage is a big reason for an abnormal radial pulse.
Difference Between Apical and Radial Pulse
References
  1. https://journals.lww.com/nursingresearchonline/Citation/1968/09000/A_Comparison_of_Pulse_Deficit_Readings_by_Serial.14.aspx
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023320300290
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