The regulation of wall stress in the abdominal aorta (AA) of humans might be of specific interest, because the AA is the most common site for aneurysm formation in which wall stress seems to be an important pathophysiological factor. We studied the age-related changes in wall stress of the AA in healthy subjects, with the common carotid artery (CCA) as a comparison.
A total of 111 healthy subjects were examined with B-mode ultrasonography to determine the lumen diameter and intima-media thickness (IMT) in the AA and the CCA.
Aortic IMT was affected by age in men and by both age and lumen diameter in women. Carotid IMT was affected by age and pulse pressure in both men and women. Wall stress was higher in the AA than in the CCA (P < .001), and men had higher wall stress than women in both the AA (P < .001) and the CCA (P < .05). Furthermore, wall stress was constant during life in the CCA of men and women and in the AA of women. In the male aorta, however, wall stress increased with age (P < 0.01).
Arterial diameters increase with age, and a compensatory thickening of the arterial wall prevents the circumferential wall stress from increasing. However, this compensatory response is insufficient in the male AA and results in an increase in stress with age. These findings might explain the propensity for aneurysms to develop in the AA of men.