Numerical analysis of the pressure drop across highly-eccentric coronary stenoses: application to the calculation of the fractional flow reserve

Biomed Eng Online. 2018 May 30;17(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s12938-018-0503-7.


Background: Fractional flow reverse (FFR) is the gold standard assessment of the hemodynamic significance of coronary stenoses. However, it requires the catheterization of the coronary artery to determine the pressure waveforms proximal and distal to the stenosis. On the contrary, computational fluid dynamics enables the calculation of the FFR value from relatively non-invasive computed tomography angiography (CTA).

Methods: We analyze the flow across idealized highly-eccentric coronary stenoses by solving the Navier-Stokes equations. We examine the influence of several aspects (approximations) of the simulation method on the calculation of the FFR value. We study the effects on the FFR value of errors made in the segmentation of clinical images. For this purpose, we compare the FFR value for the nominal geometry with that calculated for other shapes that slightly deviate from that geometry. This analysis is conducted for a range of stenosis severities and different inlet velocity and pressure waveforms.

Results and conclusions: The errors made in assuming a uniform velocity profile in front of the stenosis, as well as those due to the Newtonian and laminar approximations, are negligible for stenosis severities leading to FFR values around the threshold 0.8. The limited resolution of the stenosis geometry reconstruction is the major source of error when predicting the FFR value. Both systematic errors in the contour detection of just 1-pixel size in the CTA images and a low-quality representation of the stenosis surface (coarse faceted geometry) may yield wrong outcomes of the FFR assessment for an important set of eccentric stenoses. On the contrary, the spatial resolution of images acquired with optical coherence tomography may be sufficient to ensure accurate predictions for the FFR value.

Keywords: CFD; Fractional flow reserve; Stenosis.

MeSH terms

  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Computer Simulation
  • Coronary Stenosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Stenosis / physiopathology*
  • Fractional Flow Reserve, Myocardial*
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Pressure*