Wave Travel and Pulse Wave Velocity

  • Nicolaas Westerhof
  • Nikolaos Stergiopulos
  • Mark I. M. Noble
  • Berend E. Westerhof


Waves generated by the heart travel down the aorta and major conduit arteries. These waves are pressure waves, flow or velocity waves or diameter waves. The ratio of the distance Δx, and the time it takes for the foot of the wave to travel over this distance, Δt, gives the wave speed or pulse wave velocity, PWV=Δx/Δt. The same wave speed applies to pressure, flow and diameter waves, and by using the foot of the waves reflections play a minor role. The wave speed depends on vessel size and the elastic properties of the arterial wall. In the aorta of a healthy subject the wave speed is typically 4–5 m/s. In stiff aortas, having a low compliance the wave speed may be two times higher, implying a four-fold decrease in compliance. The wave speed in peripheral arteries is higher than in central arteries since the wall thickness is higher and the diameters are smaller.


Wave travel Phase velocity Apparent phase velocity Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV) Moens-Korteweg equation Bramwell-Hill equation methods to determine PWV 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolaas Westerhof
    • 1
  • Nikolaos Stergiopulos
    • 2
  • Mark I. M. Noble
    • 3
  • Berend E. Westerhof
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pulmonary Diseases, Amsterdam Cardiovascular SciencesVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Laboratory of Hemodynamics and Cardiovascular TechnologyEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Institute of BioengineeringLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine and TherapeuticsUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUnited Kingdom

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