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The Venous and Arterial Pulse

Bernard L. Segal, MD; Thomas F. McGarry, MD
JAMA. 1963;185(4):323-326. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060040107038.
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THE EXAMINATION, at the bedside, of the venous and arterial pulse is often the first clue suggesting the presence of heart disease. The pulse has been examined from earliest times, although in recent years it has become a neglected art in physical diagnosis.

In China,1 many centuries ago, the Chinese pursued a vague mystical study of the pulse. There are also ill-understood references concerning the phenomenon of pulsation in some of the Egyptian papyri. There is no evidence that Hippocrates ever paid attention to the pulse, but by the end of the second century, Galen recognized the quick wave of aortic reflux and the slow wave of aortic stenosis. He appreciated the force and weakness of the pulse, the state of the wall of the artery, and the apparent fullness of the vessel. It was not until 1707, with the publication of the essay The Physician's Pulse-Watch, by Sir


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