Arterial pathology is one of the main contributors to cardiovascular diseases and mortality. Several studies have been done to investigate the association between changes in arterial dimensions and cardiovascular risk factors.
During the process of ageing, the structural and functional properties and capabilities of arteries are altered. The arterial lumen increases with age and thus the arterial diameter could be used as an indicator for the overall ageing process. Researchers have reported sexual dimorphism in arterial dimensions for several arteries. Body size may confound the effect of sex on arterial dimensions because vascular surgery may be more difficult in smaller patients who may have proportionally smaller arteries. Smaller patients are likely to have shorter necks, which may limit surgical access to the carotid arteries. The question arises whether sex or body size contribute more to dimensional changes.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of specific parameters (age, weight, height, body mass index and sex) on the variations in arterial anatomy in a South African population. A primary reference data set was compiled regarding these variations for a cadaver population. This primary reference data set will serve as the first step to a greater database of arterial measurements that could be sorted according to the above-mentioned parameters. To determine whether the results were an accurate reflection, a secondary data set was compiled for a living population and compared with the results from the cadaver population, specifically for the parameters age and sex.
For the South African population studied, smaller arteries were found in females and no statistical significant difference was observed between the elastic arteries and the muscular arteries. Only the coronary arteries showed a statistical significant difference between the left and right side. The left coronary artery had a larger outer and inner diameter as compared to the right coronary artery. The results showed no statistical significance between the cadaver and living population, the left common carotid and left subclavian arteries being the exceptions. Arterial size increased with an increase in body size and age.
Data on normal arterial dimensions for a South African population is scarce, but essential when evaluating whether a dilatation or stenosis are pathological. Knowledge of the normal arterial dimensions at a specific arterial site can contribute to early diagnosis and successful intervention for a variety of cardiovascular conditions.