Pulse Propagation in the Systemic Arterial Tree

  • Ricky D. Latham
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 166)


Interest in blood flow through the systemic circulation has been present since William Harvey published in his work “De Mortu Cordis et Sanguinis” that the heart delivered blood in the arterial system and returned via the venous circulation. Later, in the early 1700s, Stephen Hales would apply some of the newly discovered of laws of physics to fluid flow in elastic systems (O’Rourke, 1982). He explored the concepts dealing with mean arterial pressure and resistance to blood flow. The translation of some of Hales’ early work into the German language resulted in the use of the term “Windkessel” to describe the expansive or elastic effects of the arterial system. This work was significantly amplified by Thomas Young, whose work included relating the fundamentals of the elastic behavior of the arterial wall to the pulse wave velocity (McDonald & Taylor, 1959). Some of Young’s concepts were more extensively studied by E.H. Weber and his brother in the mid-1800s, particularly those which related to pulse wave velocity. Additionally, Moens also expounded on Young’s work and published a treatise on these concepts in 1878 (which was also independently derived by Korteweg), on the mathematical expression of pulse wave velocity in terms of vessel elasticity and dimensions known today as the Moens-Korteweg equation. The latter years of the 1800s and early 1900s saw the brilliant influence of Otto Frank, who continued to explore vascular hemodynamic effects in terms of the Windkessel theory using a two-element or resistive-capacitive (RC) model for vascular properties (McDonald & Taylor, 1959). The next major milestone in this century was in the mid-1950s with the combined efforts of D.A. McDonald and J.R. Womersley, who provided a linear solution to the Navier-Stokes equations for arterial flow. These pioneers represented the arterial blood pressure and flow in its pulsatile components and gave birth to the concept of arterial input impedance (McDonald, 1974). These fundamental precepts were to be studied more extensively by numerous investigators, including important contributions by M.G. Taylor (1966), M.F. O’Rourke (1967, 1982), and N. Westerhof (1968, 1979).


Pressure Pulse Pulse Wave Velocity Aortic Root Wave Speed Arterial Compliance 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricky D. Latham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical InvestigationsBrooke Army Medical CenterFort Sam HoustonUSA

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