Document Type



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Richard T. Schoephoerster

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair


FEM, fatigue, heart valves, hydrodynamic testing

Date of Defense



The durability of a polymer trileaflet valve is dependent on leaflet stress concentrations, so valve designs that reduce stress can, hypothetically, increase durability. Design aspects that are believed to contribute to reduced leaflet stress include stent flexibility, parabolic coaptation curvature, and leaflet anisotropy. With this in mind, the purpose of this investigation was to elucidate what specific combinations of these parameters promote optimal acute and long-term valve function. A combination of four stent designs, seven leaflet reinforcement materials, and three coaptation geometries were evaluated through a combination of experimentation and modeling. Static tensile and Poisson’s ratio tests and dynamic tensile fatigue testing were used to evaluate the individual leaflet components; and hydrodynamic testing and accelerated valve fatigue was used to assess complete valve prototypes. The two most successful designs included a 0.40 mm thick knit-reinforced valve with a fatigue life of 10.35 years, and a 0.20 mm thick knit-reinforced valve with a 28.9 mmHg decrease in pressure drop over the former. A finite element model was incorporated to verify the impact of the above-mentioned parameters on leaflet stress concentrations. Leaflet anisotropy had a large impact on stress concentrations, and matching the circumferential modulus to that of the natural valve showed the greatest benefit. Varying the radial modulus had minimal impact. Varying coaptation geometry had no impact, but stent flexibility did have a marked effect on the stress at the top of the commissure, where a completely rigid stent resulted in a higher peak stress than a flexible stent (E = 385 MPa). In conclusion, stent flexibility and leaflet anisotropy do effect stress concentrations in the SIBS trileaflet valve, but coaptation geometry does not. Regions of high stress concentrations were linked to failure locations in vitro, so a fatigue prediction model was developed from the S/N curves generated during dynamic tensile testing of the 0.20 mm knit-reinforced leaflets. Failure was predicted at approximately 400 million cycles (10 years) at the top of the commissure. In vitro fatigue of this valve showed failure initiation after approximately 167 million cycles (4.18 years), but it was related to a design defect that is subsequently being changed.





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