The dicrotic pulse is an abnormal carotid pulse found in conjunction with certain conditions characterised by low cardiac output. It is distinguished by two palpable pulsations, the second of which is diastolic and immediately follows the second heart sound. In the course of open chest canine studies of the second heart sound, micromanometers and an electromagnetic flow meter were used to study proximal aortic haemodynamic function in both strong and weak beats. It was found that the incisural notch of the aortic pressure signal is not strongly dependent on the extent of left ventricular ejection, and is of essentially normal amplitude even in beats having greatly reduced aortic flow. In contrast, the magnitude of the systolic upstroke of the aortic pressure pulse is strongly determined by the magnitude of left ventricular ejection and is considerably reduced in weak beats. With low cardiac output the relative size of the incisural notch becomes exaggerated in comparison with the overall pulsation, thus creating the characteristic M shaped waveform of the dicrotic pulse.
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