Comparison of sequential and simultaneous breathing and pulse check by healthcare professionals during simulated scenarios

John W. Albarran*, Pam Moule, Mollie Gilchrist, Jasmeet Soar

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Basic life support guidelines for healthcare professionals recommend a sequential breathing and carotid pulse check allowing up to 10 s for each assessment. Life support providers are sometimes taught to do a simultaneous assessment of breathing and pulse check for up to 10 s. It is not clear whether this assessment improves diagnostic accuracy. Methods: We recruited 119 healthcare professionals. The SIM-Man™ was used to develop 10 simulated cases scenarios. To assess performance, 89 participants did 10 simultaneous assessments followed by 10 sequential assessments, and 29 participants did the assessment techniques in reverse order. The primary outcome of the study was the number of correct diagnoses made with each assessment method. Results: There were more correct diagnoses with a sequential assessment; 48.2% (569 out of 1180) compared to 33.5% (395 out of 1180) for the simultaneous method. Only 26.3% (n = 31) had more than five accurate diagnoses with a simultaneous assessment, compared to 44.1% (n = 52) for sequential assessments. Those performing sequential assessment achieved a median score of 5/10 correct diagnoses compared to a median score of 2.5/10 for the simultaneous method (Wilcoxon Z = -4.63, p < 0.001). Sensitivity for the pulse check was 99% for both assessments; specificity was 48.9% for a simultaneous assessment and 61.9% for the sequential approach. For breathing check, specificity, sensitivity and accuracy were also higher with the latter method (sensitivity 99.6%, specificity 70.6% and accuracy 88%) Conclusion: A sequential assessment of breathing and pulse by healthcare professionals has greater diagnostic accuracy in simulated case scenarios.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-249
    Number of pages7
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Jackie Younker helped with the making of the assessment video. This study was supported by a research grant from the Resuscitation Council, UK.

    Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Basic life support
    • Breathing check
    • Carotid pulse check
    • Manikin
    • Resuscitation training


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