3D MRI-Based Multicomponent FSI Models for Atherosclerotic Plaques

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A three-dimensional (3D) MRI-based computational model with multicomponent plaque structure and fluid-structure interactions (FSI) is introduced to perform mechanical analysis for human atherosclerotic plaques and identify critical flow and stress/strain conditions which may be related to plaque rupture. Three-dimensional geometry of a human carotid plaque was reconstructed from 3D MR images and computational mesh was generated using Visualization Toolkit. Both the artery wall and the plaque components were assumed to be hyperelastic, isotropic, incompressible, and homogeneous. The flow was assumed to be laminar, Newtonian, viscous, and incompressible. The fully coupled fluid and structure models were solved by ADINA, a well-tested finite element package. Results from two-dimensional (2D) and 3D models, based on ex vivo MRI and histological images (HI), with different component sizes and plaque cap thickness, under different pressure and axial stretch conditions, were obtained and compared. Our results indicate that large lipid pools and thin plaque caps are associated with both extreme maximum (stretch) and minimum (compression when negative) stress/strain levels. Large cyclic stress/strain variations in the plaque under pulsating pressure were observed which may lead to artery fatigue and possible plaque rupture. Large-scale patient studies are needed to validate the computational findings for possible plaque vulnerability assessment and rupture predictions.

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