The objective of this study was to determine whether pulse-contour analysis could provide a measure of the differences in peripheral vascular state between patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) and healthy persons. Vascular hemodynamic impedance parameters were determined from brachial artery pressure waveforms recorded in 14 patients with CHF, aged 20 to 55 years (mean 36 ± 12) and in 7 healthy control subjects, aged 22 to 55 years (mean 33 ± 12). Cardiac output, heart sounds and electrocardiogram were also monitored. Cardiac output was 32% lower (p < 0.01) and heart rate was 43% higher (p < 0.001) in the CHF group than in the control group. The mean arterial pressure did not differ between groups. Systemic vascular resistance was 47% higher (p < 0.05) and distal vascular compliance 73% lower (p < 0.001) in the CHF group than in control group. Proximal vascular compliance was unchanged. These studies suggest that distal compliance assessed from pulse-contour analysis is a more sensitive and specific index than systemic vascular resistance to the vascular changes in CHF.