Within-subject variability of flow-mediated vasodilation of the brachial artery in healthy men and women: implications for experimental studies

N.M. de Roos, M.L. Bots, E.G. Schouten, M.B. Katan

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Flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD) of the brachial artery is used as a marker of cardiovascular disease risk. It is defined as the percentage dilation from the baseline diameter in response to a provoked increase in blood flow. The within-subject variability, crucial in the design of trials with FMD as an endpoint, appears to vary widely between studies. We assessed the analytical and within-subject variability of FMD in healthy subjects and estimated the number of subjects needed to detect various treatment effects in intervention trials and observational studies. FMD was assessed with B-mode high-resolution ultrasound (US). A total of 13 volunteers were measured on six occasions, after they had fasted overnight. Within-subject variability was assessed from all six scans per subject. Analytical variation or reading variation was assessed by reading one scan of each subject twice by one observer. The mean (+/-tSD) FMD was 5.60 +/- 2.15 FMD% of the baseline diameter. The within-subject SD was 2.8 FMD%, resulting in a coefficient of variation (CV) of 2.8/5.6 x 100% = 50.3%. The CVs for the baseline and maximum diameter were much smaller: 4.8% (SD 0.193 mm at a mean of 4.060 mm) for the baseline and 5.2% (SD 0.222 mm at a mean of 4.285 mm) for the maximum. The CV for reading variation was 34%. The number of subjects needed to detect a treatment difference of 2 FMD% with a probability of 0.05 and a power of 0.80 would be 31 in a crossover design and 62 per group in a parallel design for comparison of group changes. We conclude that the within-subject variability of FMD is large, about 50% of the mean response. This includes biologic and reading variation. Repeated measurements and repeated readings of recorded measurements are recommended to reduce variability. (C) 2003 World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine Biology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-406
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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