The accumulation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) in the arterial intima is a critical step in the initiation and progression of atheromatous lesions. In this study we examine subject-specific LDL transport into the intima of carotid bifurcations in three human subjects using a three-pore model for LDL mass transfer. Subject-specific carotid artery computational models were derived using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain the geometry and phase-contract MRI (PC-MRI) to acquire pulsatile inflow and outflow boundary conditions for each subject. The subjects were selected to represent a wide range of anatomical configurations and different stages of atherosclerotic development from mild to moderate intimal thickening. A fluid–solid interaction (FSI) model was implemented in the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) approach in order to consider the effects of a compliant vessel on wall shear stress (WSS). The WSS-dependent response of the endothelium to LDL mass transfer was modeled by multiple pathways to include the contributions of leaky junctions, normal junctions, and transcytosis to LDL solute and plasma volume flux from the lumen into the intima. Time averaged WSS (TAWSS) over the cardiac cycle was computed to represent the spatial WSS distribution, and wall thickness (WTH) was determined from black blood MRI (BBMRI) so as to visualize intimal thickening patterns in the bifurcations. The regions which are exposed to low TAWSS correspond to elevated WTH and higher mass and volume flux via the leaky junctions. In all subjects, the maximum LDL solute flux was observed to be immediately downstream of the stenosis, supporting observations that existing atherosclerotic lesions tend to progress in the downstream direction of the stenosis.

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