Constituent-based quasi-linear viscoelasticity: a revised quasi-linear modelling framework to capture nonlinear viscoelasticity in arteries

Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2023 May 2. doi: 10.1007/s10237-023-01711-8. Online ahead of print.


Arteries exhibit fully nonlinear viscoelastic behaviours (i.e. both elastically and viscously nonlinear). While elastically nonlinear arterial models are well established, effective mathematical descriptions of nonlinear viscoelasticity are lacking. Quasi-linear viscoelasticity (QLV) offers a convenient way to mathematically describe viscoelasticity, but its viscous linearity assumption is unsuitable for whole-wall vascular applications. Conversely, application of fully nonlinear viscoelastic models, involving deformation-dependent viscous parameters, to experimental data is impractical and often reduces to identifying specific solutions for each tested loading condition. The present study aims to address this limitation: By applying QLV theory at the wall constituent rather than at the whole-wall level, the deformation-dependent relative contribution of the constituents allows to capture nonlinear viscoelasticity with a unique set of deformation-independent model parameters. Five murine common carotid arteries were subjected to a protocol of quasi-static and harmonic, pseudo-physiological biaxial loading conditions to characterise their viscoelastic behaviour. The arterial wall was modelled as a constrained mixture of an isotropic elastin matrix and four families of collagen fibres. Constituent-based QLV was implemented by assigning different relaxation functions to collagen- and elastin-borne parts of the wall stress. Nonlinearity in viscoelasticity was assessed via the pressure dependency of the dynamic-to-quasi-static stiffness ratio. The experimentally measured ratio increased with pressure, from 1.03 [Formula: see text] 0.03 (mean [Formula: see text] standard deviation) at 80-40 mmHg to 1.58 [Formula: see text] 0.22 at 160-120 mmHg. Constituent-based QLV captured well this trend by attributing the wall viscosity predominantly to collagen fibres, whose recruitment starts at physiological pressures. In conclusion, constituent-based QLV offers a practical and effective solution to model arterial viscoelasticity.

Keywords: Arterial mechanics; Arterial viscoelastic modelling; Collagen; Constituent-based quasi-linear viscoelastic modelling; Elastin.