Researchers at ICCH have developed completely new methods of analysing the complex interactions between pressure and flow that occur within the coronary arteries during cardiac contraction and relaxation. Wave Intensity Analysis, pioneered at Imperial College by collaborative research between Professor Kim Parker and Keith Willson is one of these methods. This technique measures blood pressure and the speed of blood flow at the same time and in the same place using special sensor wires placed in the main blood vessel leading from the heart. This improves understanding of the generation of blood pressure and factors which influence it.
In his PhD research, Dr John Baksi is using Wave Intensity Analysis to improve our understanding of how age affects the generation of blood pressure.
As we age, not only does blood pressure rise, but it also becomes more ‘pointy’, with a bigger and sharper upstroke in pressure. This may contribute to the increased rate of heart disease and stroke in older people. Doctors used to believe that the reason for the increase in ‘pointiness’ of blood pressure was that pressure waves, travelling outward from the heart through the arteries, were more powerfully and quickly ‘reflected’ back towards the heart. As a result, treatments have been targeting this reflection process.
However, Dr Baksi has recognised that this picture might be false. In a series of experiments, he is testing the possibility that this change is nothing to do with reflections at all, but instead, is the result of changes in the pliability of the large arteries.