Aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV), which can be non-invasively approached by measuring carotid-femoral (cf) PWV, but also to a certain degree by measuring brachial-ankle (ba) PWV, is currently thought to be the gold standard assessment of aortic / large artery stiffness, an important physical property of the arterial system. The assessment of cfPWV/baPWV can be recommended at several stages in the cardiovascular continuum:
+ Primordial and primary prevention: cfPWV/baPWV increase the risk of incident hypertension and diabetes mellitus (thus, cardiovascular (CV) risk) in apparently healthy adolescents and young and middle aged adults.
+ Patients with arterial hypertension: Increased PWV is associated with masked hypertension and is the most prevalent measure of hypertension-mediated organ damage (which is, in turn, an important marker of increased CV risk in patients with hypertension)
+ Patients with diabetes mellitus: PWV is associated with CV and renal complications in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (and, thus, with very high CV risk in these patients).
+ Young and middle-aged patients up to their 60ies with intermediate CV risk: Increased cfPWV/baPWV can reclassify CV risk in many of these patients, which was confirmed in a metaanalysis including individual participant data of 17.635 patients of 16 observational studies. Associations stratified by sex, diabetes and hypertension were similar, but decreased with age. Adding cfPWV to the traditional CV risk estimation method resulted in net reclassification indices of 25%, 10%, 13% and 11% for 10-year CV mortality, CHD events, CVD events, and stroke events, respectively. In a large meta-analysis including individual participant data of 14.673 Japanese participants (mean age 59–66 years) from 8 cohort studies without a history of CV disease, similar findings were reported for baPWV. Addition of baPWV to a model incorporating the Framingham risk score (FRS) significantly improved the category-free net reclassification (0.247).
Finally, improvement in PWV over a few years is associated with improved prognosis.
Although no randomised study so far has proven a reduction of CV events, based on a PWV driven strategy (as compared to a strategy based on traditional CV risk factors), prevention of the normal age-related increase in PWV has been shown recently in the SPARTE study. Furthermore, it is reasonable to treat high and very-high risk patients, detected by measurement of PWV, according to the respective risk category in current prevention guidelines.