We investigate the potential of prosthetic heart valves to generate abnormal flow and stress patterns, which can contribute to platelet activation and lysis according to blood damage accumulation mechanisms. High-resolution velocity measurements of the unsteady flow field, obtained with a standard particle image velocimetry system and a scaled-up model valve, are used to estimate the shear stresses arising downstream of the valve, accounting for flow features at scales less than one order of magnitude larger than blood cells. Velocity data at effective spatial and temporal resolution of 60 μm and 1.75 kHz, respectively, enabled accurate extraction of Lagrangian trajectories and loading histories experienced by blood cells. Non-physiological stresses up to 10 Pa were detected, while the development of vortex flow in the wake of the valve was observed to significantly increase the exposure time, favouring platelet activation. The loading histories, combined with empirical models for blood damage, reveal that platelet activation and lysis are promoted at different stages of the heart cycle. Shear stress and blood damage estimates are shown to be sensitive to measurement resolution.
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