Velocity Pulsatility and Arterial Distensibility Along the Internal Carotid Artery

J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Aug 18;9(16):e016883. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.120.016883. Epub 2020 Aug 12.


Background Attenuation of velocity pulsatility along the internal carotid artery (ICA) is deemed necessary to protect the microvasculature of the brain. The role of the carotid siphon within the whole ICA trajectory in pulsatility attenuation is still poorly understood. This study aims to assess arterial variances in velocity pulsatility and distensibility over the whole ICA trajectory, including effects of age and sex. Methods and Results We assessed arterial velocity pulsatility and distensibility using flow-sensitized 2-dimensional phase-contrast 3.0 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging in 118 healthy participants. Velocity pulsatility index (vPI=(Vmax-Vmin)/Vmean) and arterial distensibility defined as area pulsatility index (Amax-Amin)/Amean) were calculated at C1, C3, and C7 segments of the ICA. vPI increased between C1 and C3 (0.85±0.13 versus 0.93±0.13, P<0.001 for averaged right+left ICA) and decreased between C3 and C7 (0.93±0.13 versus 0.84±0.13, P<0.001) with overall no effect (C1-C7). Conversely, the area pulsatility index decreased between C1 and C3 (0.18±0.06 versus 0.14±0.04, P<0.001) and increased between C3 and C7 (0.14±0.04 versus 0.31±0.09, P<0.001). vPI in men is higher than in women and increases with age (P<0.015). vPI over the carotid siphon declined with age but remained stable over the whole ICA trajectory. Conclusions Along the whole ICA trajectory, vPI increased from extracranial C1 up to the carotid siphon C3 with overall no effect on vPI between extracranial C1 and intracranial C7 segments. This suggests that the bony carotid canal locally limits the arterial distensibility of the ICA, increasing the vPI at C3 which is consequently decreased again over the carotid siphon. In addition, vPI in men is higher and increases with age.

Keywords: MRI angiography; cerebral hemodynamics; distensibility; internal carotid artery; velocity pulsatility index.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Basilar Artery / physiology
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulse Wave Analysis / methods*
  • Sex Factors
  • Vasodilation / physiology*
  • Young Adult