Pulse pressure, especially in central arteries, is an independent predictor of adverse cardiovascular events in patients with increased elastic artery stiffness (or elastance). The central arterial pressure wave is composed of a forward traveling wave generated by left ventricular ejection and a later arriving reflected wave from the periphery. Increased stiffness of elastic arteries is the primary cause of increased pulse pressure in subjects with degeneration and hyperplasia of the arterial wall. As stiffness increases, transmission velocity of both forward and reflected waves increase, which causes the reflected wave to arrive earlier in the central aorta and augments pressure in late systole [ie, augmentation index = (augmented pressure/pulse pressure) increases]. These changes in wave reflection properties are associated with vascular disease and aging and cause an increase in left ventricular afterload, myocardial mass, and oxygen consumption. Vasoactive drugs have little direct effect on large elastic arteries but can markedly change wave reflection amplitude and augmentation index by altering stiffness of the muscular arteries and modifying transmission velocity of the reflected wave from the periphery to the heart. This change in amplitude and timing of the reflected wave causes a generalized change in central arterial systolic and pulse pressure that is not detected by cuff pressure measurements in the brachial artery.
*Department of Medicine/Cardiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, and †Department of Medicine/Cardiology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.
Correspondence to Wilmer W. Nichols, PhD, Department of Medicine/Cardiology, Box 100277, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org