Endothelium adapts to wall shear stress (WSS) and is functionally sensitive to positive (aneurysmogenic) and negative (protective) spatial WSS gradients (WSSG) in regions of accelerating and decelerating flow, respectively. Positive WSSG causes endothelial migration, apoptosis, and aneurysmal extracellular remodeling. Given the association of wide branching angles with aneurysm presence, the authors evaluated the effect of bifurcation geometry on local apical hemodynamics.
Computational fluid dynamics simulations were performed on parametric bifurcation models with increasing angles having: 1) symmetrical geometry (bifurcation angle 60°–180°), 2) asymmetrical geometry (daughter angles 30°/60° and 30°/90°), and 3) curved parent vessel (bifurcation angles 60°–120°), all at baseline and double flow rate. Time-dependent and time-averaged apical WSS and WSSG were analyzed. Results were validated on patient-derived models.
Narrow symmetrical bifurcations are characterized by protective negative apical WSSG, with a switch to aneurysmogenic WSSG occurring at angles ≥ 85°. Asymmetrical bifurcations develop positive WSSG on the more obtuse daughter branch. A curved parent vessel leads to positive apical WSSG on the side corresponding to the outer curve. All simulations revealed wider apical area coverage by higher WSS and positive WSSG magnitudes, with increased bifurcation angle and higher flow rate. Flow rate did not affect the angle threshold of 85°, past which positive WSSG occurs. In curved models, high flow displaced the impingement area away from the apex, in a dynamic fashion and in an angle-dependent manner.
Apical shear forces and spatial gradients are highly dependent on bifurcation and inflow vessel geometry. The development of aneurysmogenic positive WSSG as a function of angular geometry provides a mechanotransductive link for the association of wide bifurcations and aneurysm development. These results suggest therapeutic strategies aimed at altering underlying unfavorable geometry and deciphering the molecular endothelial response to shear gradients in a bid to disrupt the associated aneurysmal degeneration.