Blood flow and coherent vortices in the normal and aneurysmatic aortas: A fluid dynamical approach to intraluminal thrombus formation

Jacopo Biasetti, Fazle Hussain, T. Christian Gasser

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139 Scopus citations


Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) are frequently characterized by the development of an intra-luminal thrombus (ILT), which is known to have multiple biochemical and biomechanical implications. Development of the ILT is not well understood, and shear-stress-triggered activation of platelets could be the first step in its evolution. Vortical structures (VSs) in the flow affect platelet dynamics, which motivated the present study of a possible correlation between VS and ILT formation in AAAs. VSs educed by the λ2- method using computational fluid dynamics simulations of the backward-facing step problem, normal aorta, fusiform AAA and saccular AAA were investigated. Patient-specific luminal geometries were reconstructed from computed tomography scans, and Newtonian and Carreau-Yasuda models were used to capture salient rheological features of blood flow. Particularly in complex flow domains, results depended on the constitutive model. VSs developed all along the normal aorta, showing that a clear correlation between VSs and high wall shear stress (WSS) existed, and that VSs started to break up during late systole. In contrast, in the fusiform AAA, large VSs developed at sites of tortuous geometry and high WSS, occupying the entire lumen, and lasting over the entire cardiac cycle. Downward motion of VSs in the AAA was in the range of a few centimetres per cardiac cycle, and with a VS burst at that location, the release (from VSs) of shear-stress-activated platelets and their deposition to the wall was within the lower part of the diseased artery, i.e. where the thickest ILT layer is typically observed. In the saccular AAA, only one VS was found near the healthy portion of the aorta, while in the aneurysmatic bulge, no VSs occurred. We present a fluid-dynamics-motivated mechanism for platelet activation, convection and deposition in AAAs that has the potential of improving our current understanding of the pathophysiology of fluid-driven ILT growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1449-1461
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number63
StatePublished - Oct 7 2011


  • Aorta
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Coherent vortices
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Intra-luminal thrombus
  • Platelets


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