Coronary arterial wave intensity analysis (WIA) is thought to provide clear insight into upstream and downstream forces on coronary flow, with a large early-diastolic surge in coronary flow accompanied by a prominent backward decompression wave (BDWdia), as well as a forward decompression wave (FDWdia) and forward compression wave (FCWdia). The BDWdia is believed to arise from distal suction due to release of extravascular compression by relaxing myocardium, while FDWdia and FCWdia are thought to be transmitted from the aorta into the coronary arteries. Based on an established multi-scale computational model and high fidelity measurements from the proximal circumflex artery (Cx) of 18 anaesthetized sheep, we present evidence that wave reflection has a major impact on each of these three waves, with a non-linear addition/subtraction of reflected waves obscuring the true influence of upstream and downstream forces through concealment and exaggeration, i.e. a 'smoke and mirrors' effect. We also describe methods, requiring additional measurement of aortic WIA, for unravelling the separate influences of wave reflection versus active upstream/downstream forces on coronary waves. Distal wave reflection accounted for ∼70% of the BDWdia in sheep, but had a lesser influence (∼25%) in the computer model representing a hypertensive human. Negative reflection of the BDWdia at the coronary-aortic junction attenuated the Cx FDWdia (by ∼40% in sheep) and augmented Cx FCWdia (∼5-fold), relative to the corresponding aortic waves. We conclude that wave reflection has a major influence on early-diastolic WIA, and thus needs to be considered when interpreting coronary WIA profiles.
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