The relationship between flow in the arteries, particularly the wall shear stresses, and the sites where atherosclerosis develops has motivated much of the research on arterial flow in recent decades. It is now well accepted that it is sites where shear stresses are low, or change rapidly in time or space, that are most vulnerable. These conditions are likely to prevail at places where the vessel is curved; bifurcates; has a junction, a side branch, or other sudden change in flow geometry; and when the flow is unsteady. These flows, often but not always involving flow separation or secondary motions, are also the most difficult ones in fluid mechanics to analyze or compute. In this article we review the modeling studies and experiments on steady and unsteady, two-and three-dimensional flows in arteries, and in arterial geometries most relevant in the context of atherosclerosis. These include studies of normal vessels—to identify, on the basis of the fluid mechanics, lesion foci—and stenotic vessels, to model and measure flow in vessels after the lesions have evolved into plaques sufficiently large to significantly modify the flow. We also discuss recent work that elucidates many of the pathways by which mechanical forces, primarily the wall shear stresses, are transduced to effect changes in the arterial wall at the cellular, subcellular, and genetic level.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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