A three-dimensional and pulsatile blood flow in a human aortic arch and its three major branches has been studied numerically for a peak Reynolds number of 2500 and a frequency (or Womersley) parameter of 10. The simulation geometry was derived from the three-dimensional reconstruction of a series of two-dimensional slices obtained in vivo using CAT scan imaging on a human aorta. The numerical simulations were obtained using a projection method, and a finite-volume formulation of the Navier-Stokes equations was used on a system of overset grids. Our results demonstrate that the primary flow velocity is skewed towards the inner aortic wall in the ascending aorta, but this skewness shifts to the outer wall in the descending thoracic aorta. Within the arch branches, the flow velocities were skewed to the distal walls with flow reversal along the proximal walls. Extensive secondary flow motion was observed in the aorta, and the structure of these secondary flows was influenced considerably by the presence of the branches. Within the aorta, wall shear stresses were highly dynamic, but were generally high along the outer wall in the vicinity of the branches and low along the inner wall, particularly in the descending thoracic aorta. Within the branches, the shear stresses were considerably higher along the distal walls than along the proximal walls. Wall pressure was low along the inner aortic wall and high around the branches and along the outer wall in the ascending thoracic aorta. Comparison of our numerical results with the localization of early atherosclerotic lesions broadly suggests preferential development of these lesions in regions of extrema (either maxima or minima) in wall shear stress and pressure.

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