The stiffness of the aorta can be determined by measuring carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (PWVcf). PWV may also influence the contour of the peripheral pulse, suggesting that contour analysis might be used to assess large artery stiffness. An index of large artery stiffness (SIDVP) derived from the digital volume pulse (DVP) measured by transmission of IR light (photoplethysmography) was examined. SIDVP was obtained from subject height and from the time delay between direct and reflected waves in the DVP. The timing of these components of the DVP is determined by PWV in the aorta and large arteries. SIDVP was, therefore, expected to provide a measure of stiffness similar to PWV. SIDVP was compared with PWVcf obtained by applanation tonometry in 87 asymptomatic subjects (21–68 years; 29 women). The reproducibility of SIDVP and PWVcf and the response of SIDVP to glyceryl trinitrate were assessed in subsets of subjects. The mean within-subject coefficient of variation of SIDVP, for measurements at weekly intervals, was 9.6%. SIDVP was correlated with PWVcf (r = 0.65, P<0.0001). SIDVP and PWVcf were each independently correlated with age and mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) with similar regression coefficients: SIDVP = 0.63+0.086×age+0.042×MAP (r = 0.69, P<0.0001); PWVcf = 0.76+0.080×age+0.053×MAP (r = 0.71, P<0.0001). Administration of glyceryl trinitrate (3, 30 and 300 μg/min intravenous; each dose for 15 min) in nine healthy men produced similar changes in SIDVP and PWVcf. Thus contour analysis of the DVP provides a simple, reproducible, non-invasive measure of large artery stiffness.

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