, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 283-293
Date: 16 Aug 2007

Change in pulse transit time and pre-ejection period during head-up tilt-induced progressive central hypovolaemia

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Traditional vital signs such as heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) are often regarded as insensitive markers of mild to moderate blood loss. The present study investigated the feasibility of using pulse transit time (PTT) to track variations in pre-ejection period (PEP) during progressive central hypovolaemia induced by head-up tilt and evaluated the potential of PTT as an early non-invasive indicator of blood loss.


About 11 healthy subjects underwent graded head-up tilt from 0 to 80°. PTT and PEP were computed from the simultaneous measurement of electrocardiogram (ECG), finger photoplethysmographic pulse oximetry waveform (PPG-POW) and thoracic impedance plethysmogram (IPG). The response of PTT and PEP to tilt was compared with that of interbeat heart interval (RR) and BP. Least-squares linear regression analysis was carried out on an intra-subject basis between PTT and PEP and between various physiological variables and sine of the tilt angle (which is associated with the decrease in central blood volume) and the correlation coefficients (r) were computed.


During graded tilt, PEP and PTT were strongly correlated in 10 out of 11 subjects (median r = 0.964) and had strong positive linear correlations with sine of the tilt angle (median r = 0.966 and 0.938 respectively). At a mild hypovolaemic state (20–30°), there was a significant increase in PTT and PEP compared with baseline (0°) but without a significant change in RR and BP. Gradient analysis showed that PTT was more responsive to central volume loss than RR during mild hypovolaemia (0–20°) but not moderate hypovolaemia (50–80°).


PTT may reflect variation in PEP and central blood volume, and is potentially useful for early detection of non-hypotensive progressive central hypovolaemia. Joint interpretation of PTT and RR trends or responses may help to characterize the extent of blood volume loss in critical care patients.