Background Vascular transit time (VTT) is the propagation time of a pulse wave through an artery; it is a measure for arterial stiffness. Because reliable non-invasive VTT measurements are difficult, as an alternative we measure pulse transit time (PTT). PTT is defined as the time between the R-wave on electrocardiogram and arrival of the resulting pulse wave in a distal location measured with photoplethysmography (PPG). The time between electrical activation of the ventricles and the resulting pulse wave after opening of the aortic valve is called the pre-ejection period (PEP), a component of PTT. The aim of this study was to estimate the variability of PEP at rest, to establish how accurate PTT is as approximation of VTT. Methods PTT was measured and PEP was assessed with echocardiography (gold standard) in three groups of 20 volunteers: 1) a control group without cardiovascular disease aged <50 years and 2) aged >50 years, and 3) a group with cardiovascular risk factors, defined as arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia, kidney failure and diabetes mellitus. Results Per group, the mean PEP was: 1) 58.5 ± 13.0 ms, 2) 52.4 ± 11.9 ms, and 3) 57.6 ± 11.6 ms. However, per individual the standard deviation was much smaller, i.e. 1) 2.0-5.9 ms, 2) 2.8-5.1 ms, and 3) 1.6-12.0 ms, respectively. There was no significant difference in the mean PEP of the 3 groups (p = 0.236). Conclusion In conclusion, the intra-individual variability of PEP is small. A change in PTT in a person at rest is most probably the result of a change in VTT rather than of PEP. Thus, PTT at rest is an easy, non-invasive and accurate approximation of VTT for monitoring arterial stiffness.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Kortekaas, M.C, van Velzen, M.H.N, Grüne, F, Niehof, S.P, Stolker, R.J, & Huygen, F.J.P.M. (2018). Small intra-individual variability of the preejection period justifies the use of pulse transit time as approximation of the vascular transit. PLoS ONE, 13(10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204105