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How to examine for carotid artery an OSCE guide

The common carotid artery is palpated on the neck below the jaw and lateral to the larynx/trachea (that is mid-point between your earlobe and chin) using the middle and index fingers.
It can be felt between the anterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, above the hyoid bone and lateral to the thyroid cartilage
Precaution on palpating the carotid artery
  • The carotid artery should be palpated gently 
  • The patient should be in  sitting or lying down posture. 
  • Stimulating its baroreceptors with low palpitation can result in  severe bradycardia or even stop the heart in some sensitive persons. 
  • Two carotid arteries of a person should not be palpated at the same time. as it may limit the flow of blood to the head, possibly leading to fainting or brain ischemia.
How to examine for carotid pulse?
  • Ask the patient to look straight ahead
  • Use your thumb and press it backwards
  • The pulse is felt at the level of the medial border of the sternomastoid muscle and lateral to the thyroid cartilage.
Comment on the following
Rate, rhythm, character, volume.
Character of the vessel wall.
Palpability of all vessels,

This is very important for students preparing for USMLE and MRCP