Stroke Training and Awareness Resources (STARs)

Case 1: Jean

Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Jean is a 79 year old lady who lives alone and was found on the floor of her home by her home help who had not seen her since the previous day. She was taken to hospital and three hours later was admitted to the Stroke unit. She tells you that her left arm and leg feel weak and she is unable to raise her left arm off the bed.

Jean lying on her livingroom floor


Q. Which two of the following are most accurate for measuring heart rate?

  • Counting radial pulse
  • Counting the heart rate using a stethoscope ✓
  • Monitoring the heart rate using pulse oximetry
  • Monitoring heart rate with ECG electrodes ✓

Counting the radial pulse is usually accurate however there can be problems with a patient who has an irregular pulse or Low BP. Measuring the HR using either pulse oximetry or radial pulse has the following limitations:

1) Weak pulses can be difficult to feel and count
2) Fast or irregular pulses can be difficult to count accurately
3) The pulse may not accurately reflect the actual heart rate because a weak heart beat may not always produce a pulse that can be detected at the wrist

Counting the heart rate using a stethoscope should be measured for a full 60 seconds.

Page last reviewed: 23 Apr 2020