Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a vascular condition where the use of a biomechanics-based assessment for patient-specific risk assessment is a promising approach for clinical management of the disease. Among various factors that affect such assessment, AAA wall thickness is expected to be an important factor. However, regionally varying patient-specific wall thickness has not been incorporated as a modeling feature in AAA biomechanics. To the best our knowledge, the present work is the first to incorporate patient-specific variable wall thickness without an underlying empirical assumption on its distribution for AAA wall mechanics estimation. In this work, we present a novel method for incorporating regionally varying wall thickness (the “PSNUT” modeling strategy) in AAA finite element modeling and the application of this method to a diameter-matched cohort of 28 AAA geometries to assess differences in wall mechanics originating from the conventional assumption of a uniform wall thickness. For the latter, we used both a literature-derived population average wall thickness (1.5 mm; the “UT” strategy) as well as the spatial average of our patient-specific variable wall thickness (the “PSUT” strategy). For the three different wall thickness modeling strategies, wall mechanics were assessed by four biomechanical parameters: the spatial maxima of the first principal stress, strain, strain-energy density, and displacement. A statistical analysis was performed to address the hypothesis that the use of any uniform wall thickness model resulted in significantly different biomechanical parameters compared to a patient-specific regionally varying wall thickness model. Statistically significant differences were obtained with the UT modeling strategy compared to the PSNUT strategy for the spatial maxima of the first principal stress (p = 0.002), strain (p = 0.0005), and strain-energy density (p = 7.83 e–5) but not for displacement (p = 0.773). Likewise, significant differences were obtained comparing the PSUT modeling strategy with the PSNUT strategy for the spatial maxima of the first principal stress (p = 9.68 e–7), strain (p = 1.03 e–8), strain-energy density (p = 9.94 e–8), and displacement (p = 0.0059). No significant differences were obtained comparing the UT and PSUT strategies for the spatial maxima of the first principal stress (p = 0.285), strain (p = 0.152), strain-energy density (p = 0.222), and displacement (p = 0.0981). This work strongly recommends the use of patient-specific regionally varying wall thickness derived from the segmentation of abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans if the AAA finite element analysis is focused on estimating peak biomechanical parameters, such as stress, strain, and strain-energy density.

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