The authors' long-term research goal is to minimize the risk of thromboembolic complications in cardiac prostheses by lining blood contacting surfaces with a functional mono-layer of autologous endothelial cells. These cells recognize changes in hemodynamics and can adapt effectively to experimentally manipulated flow conditions. By implication, the morphology of endothelial cells, in conjunction with their function, might serve as an indicator of the flow patterns in a particular location. It was hypothesized that, by understanding flow patterns at a given site, the local morphology and function of the endothelial cells in such a region could be predicted. To test this hypothesis, a series of ventricle shaped flow chambers were designed and perfused with pulsatile flow. The flow field in the chambers was studied by computer aided dye visualization and nuclear scintigraphy. The results showed that the large scale motion of the fluid in the cavity was highly coherent and consisted of distinct flow patterns. The temporal and spatial characteristics of the flow patterns, and their implications with respect to endothelial cell endurance in this in vitro environment, were examined in detail.
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