Background: Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations using medical-image-based anatomical vascular geometry are now gaining clinical relevance. This study aimed at validating the CFD methodology for studying cerebral aneurysms by using particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements, with a focus on the effects of small geometric variations in aneurysm models on the flow dynamics obtained with CFD.
Method of approach: An experimental phantom was fabricated out of silicone elastomer to best mimic a spherical aneurysm model. PIV measurements were obtained from the phantom and compared with the CFD results from an ideal spherical aneurysm model (S1). These measurements were also compared with CFD results, based on the geometry reconstructed from three-dimensional images of the experimental phantom. We further performed CFD analysis on two geometric variations, S2 and S3, of the phantom to investigate the effects of small geometric variations on the aneurysmal flow field. Results. We found poor agreement between the CFD results from the ideal spherical aneurysm model and the PIV measurements from the phantom, including inconsistent secondary flow patterns. The CFD results based on the actual phantom geometry, however, matched well with the PIV measurements. CFD of models S2 and S3 produced qualitatively similar flow fields to that of the phantom but quantitatively significant changes in key hemodynamic parameters such as vorticity, positive circulation, and wall shear stress.
Conclusion: CFD simulation results can closely match experimental measurements as long as both are performed on the same model geometry. Small geometric variations on the aneurysm model can significantly alter the flow-field and key hemodynamic parameters. Since medical images are subjected to geometric uncertainties, image-based patient-specific CFD results must be carefully scrutinized before providing clinical feedback.