The arterial pulse has historically been an essential source of information in the clinical assessment of health. With current sphygmomanometric and oscillometric devices, only the peak and trough of the peripheral arterial pulse waveform are clinically used. Several limitations exist with peripheral blood pressure. First, central aortic pressure is a better predictor of cardiovascular outcome than peripheral pressure. Second, peripherally obtained blood pressure does not accurately reflect central pressure because of pressure amplification. Lastly, antihypertensive medications have differing effects on central pressures despite similar reductions in brachial blood pressure. Applanation tonometry can overcome the limitations of peripheral pressure by determining the shape of the aortic waveform from the radial artery. Waveform analysis not only indicates central systolic and diastolic pressure but also determines the influence of pulse wave reflection on the central pressure waveform. It can serve as a useful adjunct to brachial blood pressure measurements in initiating and monitoring hypertensive treatment, in observing the hemodynamic effects of atherosclerotic risk factors, and in predicting cardiovascular outcomes and events. Radial artery applanation tonometry is a noninvasive, reproducible, and affordable technology that can be used in conjunction with peripherally obtained blood pressure to guide patient management. Keywords for the PubMed search were applanation tonometry, radial artery, central pressure, cardiovascular risk, blood pressure, and arterial pulse. Articles published from January 1, 1995, to July 1, 2009, were included in the review if they measured central pressure using radial artery applanation tonometry.
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