Hemodynamic characteristics of the vertebrobasilar system analyzed using MRI-based models.

Wake-Buck AK, Gatenby JC, Gore JC
PLoS One. 2012 7 (12): e51346

PMID: 23251503 · PMCID: PMC3519605 · DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0051346

The vertebrobasilar system (VBS) is unique in human anatomy in that two arteries merge into a single vessel, and it is especially important because it supplies the posterior circulation of the brain. Atherosclerosis develops in this region, and atherosclerotic plaques in the vertebrobasilar confluence can progress with catastrophic consequences, including artery occlusion. Quantitative assessments of the flow characteristics in the VBS could elucidate the factors that influence flow patterns in this confluence, and deviations from normal patterns might then be used to predict locations to monitor for potential pathological changes, to detect early signs of disease, and to evaluate treatment options and efficacy. In this study, high-field MRI was used in conjunction with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to investigate the hemodynamics of subject-specific confluence models (n = 5) and to identify different geometrical classes of vertebrobasilar systems (n = 12) of healthy adult subjects. The curvature of the vessels and their mutual orientation significantly affected flow parameters in the VBS. The basilar artery geometry strongly influenced both skewing of the velocity profiles and the wall shear stress distributions in the VBS. All five subjects modeled possessed varying degrees of vertebral asymmetry, and helical flow was observed in four cases, suggesting that factors other than vertebral asymmetry influence mixing of the vertebral artery flow contributions. These preliminary studies verify that quantitative, MR imaging techniques in conjunction with subject-specific CFD models of healthy adult subjects may be used to characterize VBS hemodynamics and to predict flow features that have been related to the initiation and development of atherosclerosis in large arteries. This work represents an important first step towards applying this approach to study disease initiation and progression in the VBS.

MeSH Terms (4)

Basilar Artery Hemodynamics Magnetic Resonance Imaging Vertebral Artery

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