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Arch Hellen Med, 23(6), November-December 2006, 560-578


The elastic properties of arteries and methods for their assessment

First Department of Propedeutic Medicine, Medical School, University of Athens, "Laiko" Hospital, Athens, Greece

This review summarizes the methods used to estimate arterial stiffness, the factors and diseases that influence arterial stiffness and the effects of drugs and interventions on the elastic properties of the arteries. Arterial stiffening is generally accepted as a predictive factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Stiffening affects predominantly the aorta and the proximal elastic arteries, and to a lesser degree the peripheral muscular arteries. Measurement of arterial stiffness can be made noninvasively with the use of pulse wave velocity, measurement of the changes of the diameter of the aorta during systole and diastole using high-resolution ultrasonography, analysis of arterial waveforms obtained by applanation tonometry, flow mediated vasodilatation, measurement of intima-media thickness and imaging techniques, and invasively with the use of intravascular catheters. It is known that age and hypertension increase arterial stiffness. Among the other cardiovascular risk factors, diabetes, dyslipidemia and smoking accelerate arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness is also a feature of several cardiovascular and renal diseases. Patients with heart failure, renal disease, and those with atherosclerotic lesions often develop arterial stiffness. The important role of endothelial function is also discussed. Finally, the effect of various drugs and of non-pharmacological interventions on arterial stiffness is also reviewed.

Key words: Arteries, Distensibility, Elastic properties.

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