Tortuous blood vessels are often seen in humans in association with thrombosis, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and aging. Vessel tortuosity can cause high fluid shear stress, likely promoting thrombosis. However, the underlying physical mechanisms and microscale processes are poorly understood. Accordingly, the objectives of this study were to develop and use a new computational approach to determine the effects of venule tortuosity and fluid velocity on thrombus initiation. The transport, collision, shear-induced activation, and receptor-ligand adhesion of individual platelets in thrombus formation were simulated using discrete element method. The shear-induced activation model assumed that a platelet became activated if it experienced a shear stress above a relative critical shear stress or if it contacted an activated platelet. Venules of various levels of tortuosity were simulated for a mean flow velocity of 0.10 cm s−1, and a tortuous arteriole was simulated for a mean velocity of 0.47 cm s−1. Our results showed that thrombus was initiated at inner walls in curved regions due to platelet activation in agreement with experimental studies. Increased venule tortuosity modified fluid flow to hasten thrombus initiation. Compared to the same sized venule, flow in the arteriole generated a higher amount of mural thrombi and platelet activation rate. The results suggest that the extent of tortuosity is an important factor in thrombus initiation in microvessels.

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