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Difference Between Heart Rate and Pulse Rate

Heart Rate vs Pulse Rate

Vital signs is one of the most important factors doctors, nurses, and health care professional assess during admission to the hospital. These vital signs include respiratory rate, pulse rate, temperature, blood pressure, and lastly pain if there is any. Vital signs tell whether a patient is in danger already, is at risk of danger, or stable.

Two of the most common vital signs routinely being taken are the heart rate and pulse rate. What can be the difference?

There are no differences between heart rate and pulse rate, actually. The difference lies in the manner of taking it. The heart rate is assessed via the use of a stethoscope to count the beats directly on the chest particularly at the apical pulse. By the auscultating technique, a medical professional can count the heartbeats per minute. He or she can assess whether there are abnormal heart sounds such as S3 and S4, whether the client has congestive heart failure, hypertension, and such. The apical pulse is found between the fourth and fifth intercostal space mid-clavicular line.

Pulse rate, on the other hand, is assessed via palpation using the finger pads of the finger. There are numerous sites that can be used to palpate the arteries such as the carotid artery on the neck, the radial pulse on the wrist, the popliteal pulse above the knee, dorsalis pedis pulse on the side of the foot. The normal pulse and heart rate for the adult is between 60-100 beats per minute. The normal rate for an infant is at 120-160 beats per minute. The normal rate for children ages 6-12 years old is at 75-110 beats per minute.

A pulse rate or heart rate lower than 60, for example, in adults means the client has bradycardia and thus there is a slowing of the heart rate. If it’s above 100 up to more than 120, then the client is experiencing tachycardia or rapid heart beat. This can lead to cardiac dysrhythmias if not treated early.

For infants, monitoring the heart rate is crucial mostly for the infants who are inside the womb of their mother. A decrease or slowing in the heart rate or a rise in the heart rate beyond the normal limits means the infant is having respiratory distress. Therefore, there is an inadequate amount of oxygen that the infant is receiving.

These two vital signs are very important regarding the assessment of medical practitioners. These values provide baseline data regarding the patient.


1. Heart rate and pulse rate are the same terminologies.
2. The difference between the two is the technique of assessment. In the
pulse rate it involves palpation using the finger pads of the two fingers
while in the heart rate, it involves auscultation using a stethoscope.
3. The normal pulse rate of adults is at 60-100 beats per minute, 120-160
bpm for infants, and 75-110 for children ages 6-12.

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