High-resolution computational fluid dynamics detects flow instabilities in the carotid siphon: implications for aneurysm initiation and rupture?

J Biomech. 2014 Sep 22;47(12):3210-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2014.04.018. Epub 2014 Apr 29.


The carotid siphon is by nature a tortuous vessel segment with sharp bends and large area variations, and of relevance to the study of intracranial aneurysm initiation and rupture. The aim of this paper was to determine whether the siphon might harbor flow instabilities, if care is taken to resolve them. This study focused on five consecutive internal carotid artery (ICA) aneurysm cases from the open-source Aneurisk dataset. The aneurysm, always downstream of the siphon, was digitally removed using previously developed and verified tools. Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models included long cervical segments upstream, and middle and anterior cerebral arteries downstream. High-resolution pulsatile simulations were performed using the equivalent of ~24 million linear tetrahedra on average (range 16-32 M) and 30,000 time-steps/cycle. Two of the five cases were laminar with mild flow instabilities right after peak systole. One of the cases experienced strong periodic vortex shedding at a frequency of around 100 Hz. The remaining two cases harbored higher frequency flow instabilities and complex 3D vortical structures, extending to the cerebral arteries downstream. Our findings suggest that the carotid siphon, a conduit to the majority of anterior intracranial aneurysms, may experience flow instabilities, consistent with in vitro reports, but seemingly at odds with the majority of CFD studies, which have been done at lower resolutions. This has obvious implications for elucidating the forces involved in aneurysm initiation; and propagation of flow instabilities into ICA or downstream aneurysms could also impact understanding of the forces involved in aneurysm rupture.

Keywords: Aneurysm; Carotid artery; Computational fluid dynamics; Transitional flow; Turbulence; Vortex-shedding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aneurysm, Ruptured / physiopathology*
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / physiopathology*
  • Models, Biological*