Pinpoint Radial Artery Location

April 1, 2010

A common method used to locate the radial artery involves palpation of the radial pulse with 2 or 3 fingers of the nondominant hand, followed by an attempt to puncture the artery with a needle held in the dominant hand.

A common method used to locate the radial artery involves palpation of the radial pulse with 2 or 3 fingers of the nondominant hand, followed by an attempt to puncture the artery with a needle held in the dominant hand. The problem with this technique is that you are aiming the needle at a sensation in the fingers of the opposite hand rather than at a definite point that you can see.

An alternative method that has significantly improved my ability to quickly and accurately locate the radial artery involves taking a pen and making a mark on the end of the thumb of my nondominant hand. I then locate the radial pulse with the marked thumb (most gloves are sufficiently transparent that you can see the mark through the rubber), line up the mark with the artery, and aim my needle at the mark (Figure).

-- Jacob Hofer, MD Morgantown, WVa

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