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Effect of Antihypertensive Agents on Arterial Stiffness as Evaluated by Pulse Wave Velocity

Clinical Implications


Structural and functional properties of the arterial wall have been reported to be altered in hypertension, even at early stages of the disease. Morbidity and mortality associated with hypertension are primarily related to arterial damage that may affect one or several organs. Considering the potential implications of arterial assessment in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, evaluation of the arterial effects of antihypertensive agents is recommanded by numerous authorities. Among the noninvasive and simple methods to evaluate large arteries, pulse wave velocity (PWV) measurement is widely used as an index of regional arterial stiffness. This method is related to the arterial geometry and wall function, simple and reproducible, and thus, can easily be applied in clinical trials.

Several studies performed in various populations showed significant powerful interactions between PWV and cardiovascular risk factors. In addition, aortic PWV was shown to be a forceful marker and predictor of cardiovascular risk in normotensive individuals and patients with hypertension. Furthermore, aortic PWV was shown to be an independent predictor of all-cause mortality in patients with essential hypertension.

In comparison with placebo, clinical studies have shown that in short and long term trials, antihypertensive agents improved arterial stiffness (as evidenced by a reduction in PWV) independently of blood pressure reduction. The decrease of PWV was more pronounced with long term treatment than with short term treatment. Whether antihypertensive agents differ in their arterial effects independently of blood pressure changes remains unclear. Pharmacological studies, generally performed in small numbers of patients, indicate that the effects of long term treatment with ACE inhibitors, calcium channel antagonists and some β-blockers on arterial stiffness are generally similar. The effectiveness of an antihypertensive agent in reducing arterial stiffness may also be influenced by the genetic background of the patient.

Recently, the Complior® Study has shown the feasibility to assess arterial stiffness in clinical trials involving large populations using an automatic device for measuring PWV. Long term treatment with an ACE inhibitor, perindopril, was associated with a decrease in blood pressure and aortic PWV in patients with essential hypertension. In high risk patients with end-stage renal failure, ACE inhibitors effectively decreased arterial stiffness and had a favorable effect on survival which was independent of changes in blood pressure. The correlation between reversion of arterial stiffness and decrease in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality needs to be confirmed in populations of patients with lower cardiovascular risk.

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Asmar, R. Effect of Antihypertensive Agents on Arterial Stiffness as Evaluated by Pulse Wave Velocity. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs 1, 387–397 (2001).

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  • Arterial Stiffness
  • Pulse Wave Velocity
  • Antihypertensive Agent
  • Perindopril
  • Nicorandil