Arterial stiffness (AS) is a recognized predictor of cardiovascular risk and mortality, and a potential marker for monitoring the beneficial effects of medical treatments for arterial diseases. AS is typically evaluated indirectly, by assessing the so called pulse wave velocity (PWV), i.e. the speed at which the pressure wave created by the heart contraction travels along the aorta and other arteries.
PWV is generally measured using piezoelectric transducers, or via a complex ultrasound technique, but in both cases it requires a direct contact with the patient, which could also modify the measured parameters. In the EU project "NISTAS" (Non-invasive screening of the status of the vascular system) , we develop a contactless system allowing to measure the PWV thanks to a technology derived from laser triangulation devices. The measurement principle consists in the detection of the small (around 100μm) displacement of the neck skin, induced by the transit of the pressure wave in the carotid. By simultaneously measuring the displacement caused by the pulse wave in two distinct points along the carotid, the time required by the pressure wave to travel a certain distance can be measured, and the PWV can then be easily calculated.
The chosen technique for the skin displacement measurement is laser triangulation in its 2D variant (i.e. “laser profilometry”), which is robust to slight movements of the target, it does not suffer from speckle-pattern signal fading, and it can be conveniently implemented using low-cost optical components. Two light lines, emitted by two blue LEDs are projected on the target (the patient's neck skin), and the skin displacement versus time is measured using a high-frame-rate CMOS camera.
In this manuscript we present the results obtained by measuring the PWV of 10 volunteers. It is foreseen that this technique can become a simple and widespread point-of-care method for large-scale cardiovascular system screening over large populations.