A freshly launched project, funded by the European Commission, will integrate the use of relatively inexpensive High Performance Computing and Networking (HPCN) techniques, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), in the research with regard to the exact functioning of the human cardiovascular system. The partners plan to build a simulator to study the impact of various cardiac prostheses, like stents, grafts, heart pumps or artificial valves, on the interaction with the blood flow. The bloodsim tool may be adopted in a later stage by the regulatory authorities to issue strict directives in the validation procedure of prostheses before they enter the commercial market.
The Bloodsim project has started in September 1998 and will last for 36 months. The partners are forming a multidisciplinary team consisting of experts in both stress analysis and computational fluid dynamics, clinical scientists as well as dedicated end-users. The latter group is used to deal with cardiac prostheses in clinical practice. In the past years, the delicate issue of mechanical heart valve failure in the patient's body has often been in the news. Profound research has brought to light that incidents of this type are caused by a faltering opening and closing mechanism of the disc occluder. The project team therefore will work on a better understanding of the quantitative factor in the behaviour of existing disc valves.
As a result, the partners will offer the essential analytical facility to provide designers of new prostheses with the missing link in their concept. The search for a computational solution will automatically lead to other domains in the cardiovascular discipline which require urgent attention, such as the interaction of the blood flow with implanted devices, artificial vessels or even with a complete mechanical heart. Use of the simulation tool might even be extended to different areas within the human body, that are submitted to similar kinds of problems. The aim is to create a commercially available CFD code as well as an authoritative stress analysis package for the health care market, which integrate the complementary functions to tackle all current cardiovascular complications in a simulation environment.
Cardiovascular simulation not only relates to the behaviour of the blood as a heterogeneous, anisotropic and non-Newtonian fluid, but also to the typical boundaries of the flow, which are constituted by the flexibility of the arteries, veins and heart. This means that the use of simulated rigid walls and fixed approximations of probable boundary motion are out of the question in order to predict the course of the blood. Indeed, it often occurs that the flexible natural boundaries have a pronounced effect on the flow. The simulation tool therefore has to take in account all these factors to offer clinicians a genuine insight in the different mechanisms, that are involved in the cardiac process, and to help manufacturers in the design of perfectly functioning prostheses. For more information on the Bloodsim project, please contact Dr. Ian Jones.