Finite-element analysis of aortic valve-sparing: influence of graft shape and stiffness

K J Grande-Allen, R P Cochran, P G Reinhall, K S Kunzelman
IEEE Transactions on Bio-medical Engineering 2001, 48 (6): 647-59
Aortic valve incompetence due to aortic root dilation may be surgically corrected by resuspension of the native valve within a vascular graft. This study was designed to examine the effect of graft shape and material properties on aortic valve function, using a three-dimensional finite-element model of the human aortic valve and root. First, the normal root elements in the model were replaced with graft elements, in either a cylindrical or a "pseudosinus" shape. Next, the elements were assigned the material properties of either polyethylene terephthalate, expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, or polyurethane. Diastolic pressures were applied, and stresses, strains, and coaptation were recorded for the valve, root, and graft. Regarding shape, the cylindrical graft models increased the valve stresses by up to 173%, whereas the root-shaped graft model increased valve stresses by up to 40% as compared to normal. Regarding material properties, the polyurethane models demonstrated valve stress, strain, and coaptation values closest to normal, for either root shape. Graft shape had a greater effect on the simulated valve function than did the material property of the graft. Optimizing the shape and material design of the graft may result in improved longevity of the spared valve if a normal environment is restored.

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