Aortic Stiffness Determines Diastolic Blood Flow Reversal in the Descending Thoracic Aorta
Potential Implication for Retrograde Embolic Stroke in Hypertension
Aortic stiffening often precedes cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, but the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms remain obscure. We hypothesized that such abnormalities could be attributable to altered central blood flow dynamics. In 296 patients with uncomplicated hypertension, Doppler velocity pulse waveforms were recorded at the proximal descending aorta and carotid artery to calculate the reverse/forward flow ratio and diastolic/systolic flow index, respectively. Tonometric waveforms were recorded on the radial artery to estimate aortic pressure and characteristic impedance (Z0) and to determine carotid–femoral (aortic) and carotid–radial (peripheral) pulse wave velocities. In all subjects, the aortic flow waveform was bidirectional, comprising systolic forward and diastolic reverse flows. The aortic reverse/forward flow ratio (35±10%) was positively associated with parameters of aortic stiffness (including pulse wave velocity, Z0, and aortic/peripheral pulse wave velocity ratio), independent of age, body mass index, aortic diameter, and aortic pressure. The carotid flow waveform was unidirectional and bimodal with systolic and diastolic maximal peaks. There was a positive relationship between the carotid diastolic/systolic flow index (28±9%) and aortic reverse/forward flow ratio, which remained significant after adjustment for aortic stiffness and other related parameters. The Bland–Altman plots showed a close time correspondence between aortic reverse and carotid diastolic flow peaks. In conclusion, aortic stiffness determines the extent of flow reversal from the descending aorta to the aortic arch, which contributes to the diastolic antegrade flow into the carotid artery. This hemodynamic relationship constitutes a potential mechanism linking increased aortic stiffness, altered flow dynamics, and increased stroke risk in hypertension.
- Received March 1, 2013.
- Revision received March 20, 2013.
- Accepted May 31, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.