Previous experimental and numerical blood studies have shown that high shear stress levels, long exposure times to these shear stresses, and flow recirculation promote thromboembolism. Artificial heart valves, in particular bileaflet mechanical heart valves (BMHVs), are prone to developing thromboembolic complications. These complications often form at the hinge regions of BMHVs and the associated geometry has been shown to affect the local flow dynamics and the associated thrombus formation. However, to date no study has focused on simulating the motion of realistically modeled blood elements within the hinge region to numerically estimate the hinge-related blood damage. Consequently, this study aims at (a) simulating the motion of realistically modeled platelets during the leakage (mid-diastole) phase in different BMHV hinge designs placed in the aortic position and (b) quantitatively comparing the blood damage associated with different designs. Three designs are investigated to assess the effects of hinge geometry and dimensions: a 23 mm St. Jude Medical Regent™ valve hinge with two different gap distances between the leaflet ear and hinge recess; and a 23 mm CarboMedics (CM) aortic valve hinge. The recently developed lattice-Boltzmann method with external boundary force method is used to simulate the hinge flow and capture the dynamics and surface shear stresses of individual platelets. A blood damage index (BDI) value is then estimated based on a linear shear stress-exposure time BDI model. The velocity boundary conditions are obtained from previous 3D large-scale simulations of the hinge flow fields. The trajectories of the blood elements in the hinge region are found to be qualitatively similar for all three hinges, but the shear stresses experienced by individual platelets are higher for the CM hinge design, leading to a higher BDI. The results of this study are also shown to be in good agreement with previous studies, thus validating the numerical method for future research in BMHV flows. This study provides a general numerical tool to optimize the hinge design based on both hemodynamic and thromboembolic performance.
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