Mechanisms of aortic valve incompetence: finite-element modeling of Marfan syndrome

K J Grande-Allen, R P Cochran, P G Reinhall, K S Kunzelman
Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2001, 122 (5): 946-54

OBJECTIVES: Progressive aortic root dilatation and an increased aortic root elastic modulus have been documented in persons with Marfan syndrome. To examine the effect of aortic root dilatation and increased elastic modulus on leaflet stress, strain, and coaptation, we used a finite-element model.

METHODS: The normal model incorporated the geometry, tissue thickness, and anisotropic elastic moduli of normal human roots and valves. Four Marfan models were evaluated, in which the diameter of the aortic root was dilated by 5%, 15%, 30%, and 50%. Aortic root elastic modulus in the 4 Marfan models was doubled. Under diastolic pressure, regional stresses and strains were evaluated, and the percentage of leaflet coaptation was calculated.

RESULTS: Root dilatation and stiffening significantly increased regional leaflet stress and strain compared with normal levels. Stress increases ranged from 80% to 360% and strain increases ranged from 60% to 200% in the 50% dilated Marfan model. Leaflet stresses and strains were disproportionately high at the attachment edge and coaptation area. Leaflet coaptation was decreased by approximately 20% in the 50% root dilatation model.

CONCLUSIONS: Increasing root dilatation and root elastic modulus to simulate Marfan syndrome significantly increases leaflet stress and strain and reduces coaptation in an otherwise normal aortic valve. These alterations may influence the decision to use valve-sparing aortic root replacement procedures in patients with Marfan syndrome.

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