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J Biomech. 2000 Mar;33(3):299-306.

Role of tapering in aortic wave reflection: hydraulic and mathematical model study.

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Hydraulics Laboratory, Institute Biomedical Technology, University of Gent, Belgium.


Pressure and flow have been measured simultaneously at six locations along the aorta of an anatomically correct 1:1 scale hydraulic elastic tube model of the arterial tree. Our results suggest a discrete reflection point at the level of the renal arteries based on (i) the quarter-wavelength formula and (ii) the comparison of foot-to-foot (c(ff)) and apparent phase velocity (c(app)). However, separation of the pressure wave into an incident and reflected wave at all six locations indicates continuous reflection: a reflected wave is generated at each location as the forward wave passes by. We did a further analysis using a mathematical transmission line model with a simple tapering geometry (length 50 cm, 31 and 11 mm proximal and distal diameter, respectively) for a low (0.32 ml/mmHg), normal (1.6 ml mmHg) and high (8 ml/mmHg) value of total arterial compliance. Using the quarter-wavelength formula, a discrete reflection point is found at x = 33 cm, the level of the renal arteries, independent of the value of total compliance. However, local analysis comparing c(ff) and c(app) does not reveal a marked reflection site, and the analysis of incident and reflected waves merely suggests a continuous reflection. We therefore conclude that the measured in vivo aortic wave reflection indices are the result of at least two interacting phenomena: a continuous wave reflection due to tapering, and local reflections arising from branches at the level of the diaphragm. The continuous reflection is hidden in the input impedance pattern. Using the quarter-wavelength formula or the classical wave separation theory, it appears as a reflection coming from a single discrete site, confusingly also located at the level of the diaphragm. Therefore, the quarter-wavelength formula and the linear wave separation theory should be used with caution to identify wave reflection zones in the presence of tapering, i.e., in most mammalian arteries.

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