This study assesses (1) the relation of the very-low-frequency vasomotion (< 0.02 Hz) of the radial artery of young healthy volunteers to regional blood flow and (2) its distribution in the upper extremities. Radial artery diameters from comparable sites were measured on contralateral extremities in 18 young healthy volunteers by an echo tracking system simultaneously with blood flow velocity determined by continuous wave Doppler and blood pressure acquired by photoplethysmography in the middle finger. A synchronous global pattern of vasomotion was detected on contralateral radial arteries, suggesting the presence of either a centrally located pacemaker or a humoral system. Modulation of sympathovagal balance in 8 subjects did not significantly alter either the frequency or amplitude of the very-low-frequency vasomotor waves. Matching patterns of diameter and flow oscillations of the very-low-frequency type recorded at the same site were obtained in 10 strictly nonsmoking volunteers for given periods of time. A consistent phase lag was observed between flow and diameter signals. Flow always preceded the diameter fluctuations by a mean (+/- SEM) course of 20.8 +/- 1.56 seconds. Although the physiological basis for oscillatory behavior remains for the moment highly speculative, these results suggest that the very-low-frequency vasomotion pattern in this conduit vessel might be a flow- or shear stress-dependent phenomenon. Shear stress changes at the endothelium modulate vascular tone through the release of vasodilators. The noninvasive assessment of the diameter-flow relation may thus offer a new way of addressing vascular wall function in medium-sized and large arteries in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors.