Computational blood flow modeling in intracranial aneurysms (IAs) has enormous potential for the assessment of highly resolved hemodynamics and derived wall stresses. This results in an improved knowledge in important research fields, such as rupture risk assessment and treatment optimization. However, due to the requirement of assumptions and simplifications, its applicability in a clinical context remains limited.
This review article focuses on the main aspects along the interdisciplinary modeling chain and highlights the circumstance that computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are embedded in a multiprocess workflow. These aspects include imaging-related steps, the setup of realistic hemodynamic simulations, and the analysis of multidimensional computational results. To condense the broad knowledge, specific recommendations are provided at the end of each subsection.
Overall, various individual substudies exist in the literature that have evaluated relevant technical aspects. In this regard, the importance of precise vessel segmentations for the simulation outcome is emphasized. Furthermore, the accuracy of the computational model strongly depends on the specific research question. Additionally, standardization in the context of flow analysis is required to enable an objective comparison of research findings and to avoid confusion within the medical community. Finally, uncertainty quantification and validation studies should always accompany numerical investigations.
In conclusion, this review aims for an improved awareness among physicians regarding potential sources of error in hemodynamic modeling for IAs. Although CFD is a powerful methodology, it cannot provide reliable information, if pre- and postsimulation steps are inaccurately carried out. From this, future studies can be critically evaluated and real benefits can be differentiated from results that have been acquired based on technically inaccurate procedures.