Cerebral arterial pulsatility is strongly associated with cerebral small vessel disease and lacunar stroke yet its dependence on central versus local haemodynamic processes is unclear. In a population-based study of patients on best medical managment, 4-6 weeks after a TIA or non-disabling stroke, arterial stiffness and aortic systolic, diastolic and pulse pressures were measured (Sphygmocor). Middle cerebral artery peak and trough flow velocities and Gosling's pulsatility index were measured by transcranial ultrasound. In 981 participants, aortic and cerebral pulsatility rose strongly with age in both sexes, but aortic diastolic pressure fell more with age in men whilst cerebral trough velocity fell more in women. There was no significant association between aortic systolic or diastolic blood pressure with cerebral peak or trough flow velocity but aortic pulse pressure explained 37% of the variance in cerebral arterial pulsatility, before adjustment, whilst 49% of the variance was explained by aortic pulse pressure, arterial stiffness, age, gender and cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, arterial stiffness partially mediated the relationship between aortic and cerebral pulsatility. Overall, absolute aortic pressures and cerebral blood flow velocity were poorly correlated but aortic and cerebral pulsatility were strongly related, suggesting a key role for transmission of aortic pulsatility to the brain.
Keywords: Arterial stiffness; age; aortic blood pressure; cerebral pulsatility; small vessel disease.