Since the first successful implantation of a prosthetic heart valve four decades ago, over 50 different designs have been developed including both mechanical and bioprosthetic valves. Today, the most widely implanted design is the mechanical bileaflet, with over 170,000 implants worldwide each year. Several different mechanical valves are currently available and many of them have good bulk forward flow hemodynamics, with lower transvalvular pressure drops, larger effective orifice areas, and fewer regions of forward flow stasis than their earlier-generation counterparts such as the ball-and-cage and tilting-disc valves. However, mechanical valve implants suffer from complications resulting from thrombus deposition and patients implanted with these valves need to be under long-term anti-coagulant therapy. In general, blood thinners are not needed with bioprosthetic implants, but tissue valves suffer from structural failure with, an average life-time of 10-12 years, before replacement is needed. Flow-induced stresses on the formed elements in blood have been implicated in thrombus initiation within the mechanical valve prostheses. Regions of stress concentration on the leaflets during the complex motion of the leaflets have been implicated with structural failure of the leaflets with bioprosthetic valves. In vivo and in vitro experimental studies have yielded valuable information on the relationship between hemodynamic stresses and the problems associated with the implants. More recently, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has emerged as a promising tool, which, alongside experimentation, can yield insights of unprecedented detail into the hemodynamics of prosthetic heart valves. For CFD to realize its full potential, however, it must rely on numerical techniques that can handle the enormous geometrical complexities of prosthetic devices with spatial and temporal resolution sufficiently high to accurately capture all hemodynamically relevant scales of motion. Such algorithms do not exist today and their development should be a major research priority. For CFD to further gain the confidence of valve designers and medical practitioners it must also undergo comprehensive validation with experimental data. Such validation requires the use of high-resolution flow measuring tools and techniques and the integration of experimental studies with CFD modeling.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute through the Grants # R01-HL-07262 and R01-HL-071814.
Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Bioprosthetic implants
- Blood flow
- Computational fluid dynamics
- Experimental techniques
- Mechanical implants
- Prosthetic heart valves