1. We compared the velocity waveforms in the superficial femoral artery measured by multichannel Doppler ultrasound in 45 subjects: 21 patients with untreated essential hypertension and 24 normal subjects of similar age and sex.

2. The pattern of arterial flow was abnormal in hypertensive patients, with the acceleration time, the duration of reverse flow and the time to maximum flow reversal being abbreviated. The internal arterial diameter, calculated from the velocity profile, was reduced despite raised pressure, suggesting altered arterial wall mechanics in essential hypertension.

3. These abnormalities will influence the wall shear stress, a major determinant of arterial function. The abnormal arterial wall mechanics and abnormal blood flow pattern may contribute to the increased risk of arterial disease in patients with untreated hypertension.

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