Characterization of hemodynamic forces induced by mechanical heart valves: Reynolds vs. viscous stresses

Liang Ge, Lakshmi P. Dasi, Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ajit P. Yoganathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Bileaflet mechanical heart valves (BMHV) are widely used to replace diseased heart valves. Implantation of BMHV, however, has been linked with major complications, which are generally considered to be caused by mechanically induced damage of blood cells resulting from the non-physiological hemodynamics environment induced by BMHV, including regions of recirculating flow and elevated Reynolds (turbulence) shear stress levels. In this article, we analyze the results of 2D high-resolution velocity measurements and full 3D numerical simulation for pulsatile flow through a BMHV mounted in a model axisymmetric aorta to investigate the mechanical environment experienced by blood elements under physiologic conditions. We show that the so-called Reynolds shear stresses neither directly contribute to the mechanical load on blood cells nor is a proper measurement of the mechanical load experienced by blood cells. We also show that the overall levels of the viscous stresses, which comprise the actual flow environment experienced by cells, are apparently too low to induce damage to red blood cells, but could potentially damage platelets. The maximum instantaneous viscous shear stress observed throughout a cardiac cycle is <15 N/m2. Our analysis is restricted to the flow downstream of the valve leaflets and thus does not address other areas within the BMHV where potentially hemodynamically hazardous levels of viscous stresses could still occur (such as in the hinge gaps and leakage jets).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-297
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from Tom and Shirley Curley’s and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL 720621). L. G. and F. S. are grateful to the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for assistance with the computations.


  • Blood cell damage
  • Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • Particle image velocimetry (PIV)
  • Prosthetic heart valves
  • Reynolds shear stress
  • Turbulence
  • Viscous shear stress


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