Conduit arterial wave reflection promotes pressure transmission but impedes hydraulic energy transmission to the microvasculature

Avinash Kondiboyina, Joseph J. Smolich, Michael M.H. Cheung, Berend E. Westerhof, Jonathan P. Mynard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Current thinking suggests that wave reflection in arteries limits pulse pressure and hydraulic energy (HE) transmission to the microvasculature and that this protective effect reduces with advancing age. However, according to transmission line theory, pressure transmission (Tp) and reflection (R) coefficients are proportional (Tp = 1 + R), implying that wave reflection would promote rather than limit pressure transmission. We hypothesized that increasing distal pulse pressure (PPd) with age is instead related to increased proximal pulse pressure (PPp) and its forward component and that these are modulated by arterial compliance. A one-dimensional model of a fractal arterial tree containing 21 generations was constructed. Wave speed in each vessel was prescribed to achieve a uniform R at every junction, with changes in R achieved by progressively stiffening proximal or distal vessels. For both stiffening scenarios, decreasing reflection led to a decrease or no change in PPd when forward pressure or compliance were held constant, respectively, suggesting that wave reflection per se does not limit pressure transmission. Proximal pulse pressure, its forward component, and PPd increased with decreasing compliance; furthermore, proximal and distal pulse pressures were approximately proportional. With fixed compliance but decreasing reflection, HE transmission increased, whereas pressure transmission decreased, consistent with transmission line theory. In conclusion, wave reflection does not protect the microvasculature from high PPd; rather, PPp and PPd are modulated by arterial compliance, which reduces with age. Wave reflection has opposing effects on pressure and HE transmission; hence, the relative importance of pressure versus HE in contributing to microvascular damage warrants investigation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY With aging, a reduction in the stiffness gradient between elastic and muscular arteries is thought to reduce wave reflection in conduit arteries, leading to increased pulsatile pressure transmission into the microvasculature. This assumes that wave reflection limits pressure transmission in arteries. However, using a computational model, we showed that wave reflection promotes pulsatile pressure transmission, although it does limit hydraulic energy transmission. Increased microvascular pulse pressure with aging is instead related to decreasing arterial compliance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H66-H75
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Aging
  • Microcirculation
  • Pulsatility
  • Stiffness mismatch
  • Wave reflection
  • n/a OA procedure


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