Background and aims: Atherosclerosis has been associated with near-wall hemodynamics and wall shear stress (WSS). However, the role of coronary intravascular hemodynamics, in particular of the helical flow (HF) patterns that physiologically develop in those arteries, is rarely considered. The purpose of this study was to assess how HF affects coronary plaque initiation and progression, definitively demonstrating its atheroprotective nature. Methods: The three main coronary arteries of five adult hypercholesterolemic mini-pigs on a high fat diet were imaged by computed coronary tomography angiography (CCTA) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) at 3 (T1, baseline) and 9.4 ± 1.9 (T2) months follow-up. The baseline geometries of imaged coronary arteries (n = 15) were reconstructed, and combined with pig-specific boundary conditions (based on in vivo Doppler blood flow measurements) to perform computational fluid dynamic simulations. Local wall thickness (WT) was measured on IVUS images at T1 and T2, and its temporal changes were assessed. Descriptors of HF and WSS nature were computed for each model, and statistically compared to WT data. Results: HF intensity was strongly positively associated with WSS magnitude (p < 0.001). Overall, coronary segments exposed to high baseline levels of HF intensity exhibited a significantly lower WT growth (p < 0.05), compared to regions with either mid or low HF intensity. Conclusions: This study confirms the physiological significance of HF in coronary arteries, revealing its protective role against atherosclerotic WT growth and its potential in predicting regions undergoing WT development. These findings support future in vivo measurement of coronary HF as atherosclerotic risk marker, overcoming current limitations of in vivo WSS assessment.

Atherosclerosis, Computational fluid dynamics, Plaque progression, Wall shear stress,
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RePub (University Library)

De Nisco, G. (Giuseppe), Hoogendoorn, A, Chiastra, C, Gallo, D. (Diego), Kok, A.M, Morbiducci, U, & Wentzel, J.J. (2020). The impact of helical flow on coronary atherosclerotic plaque development. Atherosclerosis. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2020.01.027