Mathematical Analysis of Blood Flow in Human Coronary Arteries Plagued by Atherosclerosis
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for men and women. Atherosclerosis is a heart condition that causes artery walls to become narrowed and hardened due to buildup of plaque along the artery walls, which is theorized to act as an onset to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. Unfortunately, it is not fully understood how the mechanisms that lead to atherosclerosis are related to this onset. In this study, I constructed a custom-made bioreactor chamber that would allow us to study the flow physics of blood brought about by atherosclerosis and its implications in the onset of heart problems. A 3D virtual geometry of an idealized coronary artery with a hemispherical obstruction was created to model the flow physics in search of irregularities in the blood flow. I found that the obstruction caused severe blood flow disturbances further downstream from the atheroma. Vortices formed in these regions, which have been correlated to the formation of recirculation zones. These findings are in agreement with similar independent studies that suggest atheromas cause blood flow irregularities such as vortices. These recirculation zones have been correlated to vessel erosion and may be a key factor in the inception of heart attacks.