Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for the death of about 4 million individuals per year in Europe. The associated health care costs are estimated at 10 billion euros (8 billion pounds) for the UK alone.
One of the most common vascular diseases is abdominal aortic aneurysm. It can be described as a localised, irreversible permanent dilatation of the aorta, the main artery in the human body. Generally no obvious symptoms are exhibited by patients, and if left untreated this abnormal dilation tends to grow until rupture. This event is life threatening, in the vast majority of cases, and it is responsible for 8000 deaths every year in the UK. Aneurysm, once diagnosed, is routinely treated by surgical repair but this operation is not easy and presents some risks. Hence, it is of extreme importance that an early diagnosis of the disease is developed with prompt action when requested. This present research proposal aims to improve our understanding regarding the mechanical causes leading to aneurysm formation and the possibility of enhancing our ability to predict aneurysm rupture. A series of experimental investigations of healthy and damaged aorta are planned to acquire data to characterize the mechanical behaviour of aneurysms. This is a necessary step to produce an advanced numerical model that can improve our understanding of the disease. A preliminary comparison of experimental observations with numerical predictions will help the verification of computational methodologies that will be applied to patient specific geometries available as medical images. This work will allow clinicians to make better informed decisions for endovascular repair based on a more detailed knowledge of aneurysm development beyond the currently accepted criterion of maximum diameter, thus benefiting affected patients and society as a whole and leading to significant cost savings by reducing morbidity and premature death.
Furthermore, this research will help the UK to maintain its worldwide recognized high standard in healthcare.