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Blood flow assessment technology in aortic surgery: a narrative review.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Blood flow assessment is an emerging technique that allows for assessment of hemodynamics in the heart and blood vessels. Recent advances in cardiovascular imaging technologies have made it possible for this technique to be more accessible to clinicians and researchers. Blood flow assessment typically refers to two techniques: measurement-based flow visualization using echocardiography or four-dimensional flow magnetic resonance imaging (4D flow MRI), and computer-based flow simulation based on computational fluid dynamics modeling. Using these methods, blood flow patterns can be visualized and quantitative measurements of mechanical stress on the walls of the ventricles and blood vessels, most notably the aorta, can be made. Thus, blood flow assessment has been enhancing the understanding of cardiac and aortic diseases; however, its introduction to clinical practice has been negligible yet. In this article, we aim to discuss the clinical applications and future directions of blood flow assessment in aortic surgery. We then provide our unique perspective on the technique's translational impact on the surgical management of aortic disease.

METHODS: Articles from the PubMed database and Google Scholar regarding blood flow assessment in aortic surgery were reviewed. For the initial search, articles published between 2013 and 2023 were prioritized, including original articles, clinical trials, case reports, and reviews. Following the initial search, additional articles were considered based on manual searches of the references from the retrieved literature.

KEY CONTENT AND FINDINGS: In aortic root pathology and ascending aortic aneurysms, blood flow assessment can elucidate postoperative hemodynamic changes after surgical reconfiguration of the aortic valve complex or ascending aorta. In cases of aortic dissection, analysis of blood flow can predict future aortic dilatation. For complicated congenital aortic anomalies, surgeons may use preoperative imaging to perform "virtual surgery", in which blood flow assessment can predict postoperative hemodynamics for different surgical reconstructions and assist in procedural planning even before entering the operating room.

CONCLUSIONS: Blood flow assessment and computational modeling can evaluate hemodynamics and flow patterns by visualizing blood flow and calculating biomechanical forces in patients with aortic disease. We anticipate that blood flow assessment will become an essential tool in the treatment planning and understanding of the progression of aortic disease.

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