This work focuses on the comparison between Newtonian and non-Newtonian blood flows through a bileaflet mechanical heart valve in the aortic root. The blood, in fact, is a concentrated suspension of cells, mainly red blood cells, in a Newtonian matrix, the plasma, and consequently its overall behavior is that of a non-Newtonian fluid owing to the action of the cells’ membrane on the fluid part. The common practice, however, assumes the blood in large vessels as a Newtonian fluid since the shear rate is generally high and the effective viscosity becomes independent of the former. In this paper, we show that this is not always the case even in the aorta, the largest artery of the systemic circulation, owing to the pulsatile and transitional nature of the flow. Unexpectedly, for most of the pulsating cycle and in a large part of the fluid volume, the shear rate is smaller than the threshold level for the blood to display a constant effective viscosity and its shear thinning character might affect the system dynamics. A direct inspection of the various flow features has shown that the valve dynamics, the transvalvular pressure drop and the large-scale features of the flow are very similar for the Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluid models. On the other hand, the mechanical damage of the red blood cells (hemolysis), induced by the altered stress values in the flow, is larger for the non-Newtonian fluid model than for the Newtonian one.
- Mechanical aortic valve
- Non-Newtonian fluid