Piezoelectric sensor determination of arterial pulse wave velocity

JAD McLaughlin, MDJ McNeill, B Braun, PD McCormack

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Arterial pulse wave velocity (APWV) is a measure of the elasticity (or stiffness) of peripheral arterial blood vessels. The pulse referred to here will be the pressure pulse as opposed to the flow pulse measured by ultrasound Doppler. The pressure pulse velocity varies over the range from about 12 m s−1 to 15 m s−1 in stiff peripheral arteries, whereas in normal arteries it has a velocity in the range of 7 to 9 m s−1.The aim of this project was the development of a fast and easy to use system for the determination of peripheral arterial pulse wave velocity. The principle of the PWV measurement is based on simultaneous measurement of two pulse waves at two different positions, such as the radial artery at the wrist and the brachial artery just above the elbow. By determining the pulse transit time between these points and the distance measured between the two locations, pulse wave velocity may then be calculated. The pressure pulse detection is done by using two piezoelectric sensors which generate a measurable voltage at the output contacts if they are mechanically deformed. The deformation produced voltage is first amplified and filtered and then digitalized with a data acquisition card. The analysis of the data obtained from the sensors includes a filtering process, the calculation of the PWV with three different methods—foot-to-foot, cross-correlation and peak-to-peak—and the determination of the arterial pulse rate.Extensive measurements with human test subjects were carried out to optimize the techniques of data acquisition and analysis. For example, it was found that the best procedure was to hold the sensors in place using elastic straps alone. The data analysis was upgraded with an additional software module, which deletes, in effect, outriders or invalid measurements. With the optimized system, a series involving eight test subjects ranging in age from 22 to 32 years was completed (all normotensive). The arterial pulse wave velocities determined covered a range from 6 m s−1 to 12 m s−1, with an average standard deviation of less than 2.5 m s−1 for individual results. These are slightly higher, but close to published APWV data. The results showed that reproducible results can be obtained with the existing PWV acquirement and analysis system.Copyright IOP 2003
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-702
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2003


  • arterial pulse wave velocity
  • APWV
  • non-invasive
  • pressure pulse
  • piezoelectric sensor
  • elasticity
  • stiffness
  • peripheral


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