The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of aortic clamping on arterial waves during peripheral vascular surgery. We measured pressure and velocity simultaneously in the ascending aorta, in ten patients (70±5 years) with aortic-iliac disease intra-operatively. Pressure was measured using a catheter tip manometer, and velocity was measured using Doppler ultrasound. Data were collected before aortic clamping, during aortic clamping and after unclamping. Hydraulic work in the aortic root was calculated from the measured data, the reflected waves were determined by wave-intensity analysis and wave speed was determined by the PU-loop (pressure-velocity-loop) method; a new technique based on the ‘water-hammer’ equation. The wave speed is approx. 32% (P < 0.05) higher during clamping than before clamping. Although the peak intensity of the reflected wave does not alter with clamping, it arrives 30ms (P < 0.05) earlier and its duration is 25% (P < 0.05) longer than before clamping. During clamping, left ventricule (LV) hydraulic systolic work and the energy carried by the reflected wave increased by 27% (P < 0.05) and 20% (P < 0.05) respectively, compared with before clamping. The higher wave speed during clamping explains the earlier arrival of the reflected waves suggesting an increase in the afterload, since the LV has to overcome earlier reflected compression waves. The longer duration of the reflected wave during clamping is associated with an increase in the total energy carried by the wave, which causes an increase in hydraulic work. Increased hydraulic work during clamping may increase LV oxygen consumption, provoke myocardial ischaemia and hence contribute to the intra-operative impairment of LV function known in patients with peripheral vascular disease.

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