Evidence suggests that atherogenesis is linked to local hemodynamic factors such as wall shear stress. We investigated the velocity and wall shear stress patterns within a human right coronary artery (RCA), an important site of atherosclerotic lesion development. Emphasis was placed on evaluating the effect of flow waveform and inlet flow velocity profile on the hemodynamics in the proximal, medial, and distal arterial regions. Using the finite-element method, velocity and wall shear stress patterns in a rigid, anatomically realistic model of a human RCA were computed. Steady flow simulations (ReD=500) were performed with three different inlet velocity profiles; pulsatile flow simulations utilized two different flow waveforms (both with Womersley parameter=1.82, mean ReD=233), as well as two of the three inlet profiles. Velocity profiles showed Dean-like secondary flow features that were remarkably sensitive to the local curvature of the RCA model. Particularly noteworthy was the "rotation" of these Dean-like profiles, which produced large local variations in wall shear stress along the sidewalls of the RCA model. Changes in the inlet velocity profiles did not produce significant changes in the arterial velocity and wall shear stress patterns. Pulsatile flow simulations exhibited remarkably similar cycle-average wall shear stress distributions regardless of waveform and inlet velocity profile. The oscillatory shear index was very small and was attributed to flow reversal in the waveform, rather than separation. Cumulatively, these results illustrate that geometric effects (particularly local three-dimensional curvature) dominate RCA hemodynamics, implying that studies attempting to link hemodynamics with atherogenesis should replicate the patient-specific RCA geometry.
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