Ó The Author(s) 2010. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com Abstract Several works have separated the pressure waveform p in systemic arteries into reservoir pr and excess pexc components, p = pr? pexc, to improve pulse wave analysis, using windkessel models to calculate the reservoir pressure. However, the mechanics underlying this separation and the physical meaning of pr and pexc have not yet been established. They are studied here using the timedomain, inviscid and linear one-dimensional (1-D) equations of blood flow in elastic vessels. Solution of these equations in a distributed model of the 55 larger human arteries shows that pr calculated using a two-element windkessel model is space-independent and well approximated by the compliance-weighted space-average pressure of the arterial network. When arterial junctions are wellmatched for the propagation of forward-travelling waves, pr calculated using a three-element windkessel model is space-dependent in systole and early diastole and is made of all the reflected waves originated at the terminal (peripheral) reflection sites, whereas pexc is the sum of the rest of the waves, which are obtained by propagating the left ventricular flow ejection without any peripheral reflection. In addition, new definitions of the reservoir and excess pressures from simultaneous pressure and flow measurements at an arbitrary location are proposed here. They provide valuable information for pulse wave analysis and overcome the limitations of the current two- and threeelement windkessel models to calculate pr
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