Mechanism underlying the heart rate dependency of wave reflection in the aorta: a numerical simulation

Hanguang Xiao, Isabella Tan, Mark Butlin, Decai Li, Alberto P. Avolio*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Arterial wave reflection has been shown to have a significant dependence on heart rate (HR). However, the underlying mechanisms inherent in the HR dependency of wave reflection have not been well established. This study aimed to investigate the potential mechanisms and role of arterial viscoelasticity using a 55-segment transmission line model of the human arterial tree combined with a fractional viscoelastic model. At varying degrees of viscoelasticity modeled as fractional order parameter α, reflection magnitude (RM), reflection index (RI), augmentation index (AIx), and a proposed novel normalized reflection coefficient (Γnorm) were estimated at different HRs from 60 to 100 beats/min with a constant mean flow of 70 ml/s. RM, RI, AIx, and Γnorm at the ascending aorta decreased linearly with increasing HR at all degrees of viscoelasticity. The means ± SD of the HR dependencies of RM, RI, AIx, and Γnorm were -0.042 ± 0.004, -0.018 ± 0.001, -1.93 ± 0.55%, and -0.037 ± 0.002 per 10 beats/ min, respectively. There was a significant and nonlinear reduction in RM, RI, and Γnorm with increasing α at all HRs. In addition, HR and α have a more pronounced effect on wave reflection at the aorta than at peripheral arteries. The potential mechanism of the HR dependency of wave reflection was explained by the inverse dependency of the reflection coefficient on frequency, with the harmonics of the pulse waveform moving toward higher frequencies with increasing HR. This HR dependency can be modulated by arterial viscoelasticity.

    NEW & NOTEWORTHY This in silico study addressed the underlying mechanisms of how heart rate influences arterial wave reflection based on a transmission line model and elucidated the role of arterial viscoelasticity in the dependency of arterial wave reflection on heart rate. This study provides insights into wave reflection as a frequencydependent phenomenon and demonstrates the validity of using reflection magnitude and reflection index as wave reflection indexes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)H443-H451
    Number of pages9
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


    • heart rate
    • reflection coefficient
    • transmission line model
    • viscoelasticity
    • wave reflection


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