To palpate the carotid artery, place your index and third fingers on the patient's thyroid cartilage and slip them laterally between the trachea and the sternocleidomastoid muscle. You should be able to feel the carotid pulsations just medial to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Palpation should be performed low in the neck to avoid pressure on the carotid sinus, which would cause a reflex drop in blood pressure and heart rate. Each carotid artery is evaluated separately. Never press on both carotid arteries at the same time. After the right carotid artery is evaluated, stand in the same position, and place the same fingers back on the patient's trachea and slip them laterally to the left to feel the left carotid artery. This technique is demonstrated in Figure 14-23.

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