Systolic Hypertension Mechanisms: Effect of Global and Local Proximal Aorta Stiffening on Pulse Pressure

Reymond, Philippe ; Westerhof, Nico ; Stergiopulos, Nikos

In: Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 2012, vol. 40, no. 3, p. 742-749

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    Decrease in arterial compliance leads to an increased pulse pressure, as explained by the Windkessel effect. Pressure waveform is the sum of a forward running and a backward running or reflected pressure wave. When the arterial system stiffens, as a result of aging or disease, both the forward and reflected waves are altered and contribute to a greater or lesser degree to the increase in aortic pulse pressure. Two mechanisms have been proposed in the literature to explain systolic hypertension upon arterial stiffening. The most popular one is based on the augmentation and earlier arrival of reflected waves. The second mechanism is based on the augmentation of the forward wave, as a result of an increase of the characteristic impedance of the proximal aorta. The aim of this study is to analyze the two aforementioned mechanisms using a 1-D model of the entire systemic arterial tree. A validated 1-D model of the systemic circulation, representative of a young healthy adult was used to simulate arterial pressure and flow under control conditions and in presence of arterial stiffening. To help elucidate the differences in the two mechanisms contributing to systolic hypertension, the arterial tree was stiffened either locally with compliance being reduced only in the region of the aortic arch, or globally, with a uniform decrease in compliance in all arterial segments. The pulse pressure increased by 58% when proximal aorta was stiffened and the compliance decreased by 43%. Same pulse pressure increase was achieved when compliance of the globally stiffened arterial tree decreased by 47%. In presence of local stiffening in the aortic arch, characteristic impedance increased to 0.10mmHgs/mL vs. 0.034mmHgs/mL in control and this led to a substantial increase (91%) in the amplitude of the forward wave, which attained 42mmHg vs. 22mmHg in control. Under global stiffening, the pulse pressure of the forward wave increased by 41% and the amplitude of the reflected wave by 83%. Reflected waves arrived earlier in systole, enhancing their contribution to systolic pressure. The effects of local vs. global loss of compliance of the arterial tree have been studied with the use of a 1-D model. Local stiffening in the proximal aorta increases systolic pressure mainly through the augmentation of the forward pressure wave, whereas global stiffening augments systolic pressure principally though the increase in wave reflections. The relative contribution of the two mechanisms depends on the topology of arterial stiffening and geometrical alterations taking place in aging or in disease