BACKGROUND: Atherosclerosis begins in the arterial wall, with endothelial dysfunction accompanied by functional and structural changes that influence arterial stiffness. Pulse contour analysis provides an assessment of compliance or elasticity of the large conduit arteries (C(1)) and small microcirculatory arteries (C(2)). In this study, the predictive value of reduced elasticity of these arteries was evaluated by follow-up of subjects who underwent pulse contour analysis at the University of Minnesota. METHODS: Questionnaires were sent to 870 subjects who had radial artery pulse wave analysis performed between 1993 and 1999 using a noninvasive sensor, parameter estimating algorithm and modified Windkessel model of the circulation. Responses from 419 subjects >19 years of age reported on any cardiovascular events including death, myocardial infarction, stroke, transient ischemic attacks, angina, or coronary or peripheral vascular interventional procedures. RESULTS: Of the subjects, 168 (41%) reported one or more cardiovascular events. Events were more common in those with elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and family history of events. Age, reduced C(1), and reduced C(2) were univariate predictors of events. After adjusting for age, a 2-unit decrease in C(2) remained a significant predictor (odds ratio 1.50, P <.001), whereas C(1) was no longer predictive. CONCLUSION: Reduced small artery elasticity, which is a measure of endothelial dysfunction, is significantly associated with cardiovascular events independent of age.