Abstract

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada resulting in $20.9 billion annual healthcare expenditures [1,2]. Understanding the mechanics of the human descending thoracic aorta is fundamental for comprehending the development of pathologies and improving surgical prostheses. This study presents hyperelastic and viscoelastic material characterizations of the human descending thoracic aorta from twelve different donors, with a mean age of 49.4 years. The specimens were dissected into the three constituent layers: intima, media and adventitia. Evaluating the layer-specific opening angles led to the computation of the circumferential residual stresses. Uniaxial tensile tests of each layer, in both the circumferential and axial direction, were used to model the hyperelastic behavior according to the Gasser-Ogden-Holzapfel model (GOH). The storage modulus and loss tangent for the layers were obtained from uniaxial harmonic excitations at varied frequencies, to model the viscoelastic behavior with the generalized Maxwell model. The results showed a positive correlation between age and stiffness for all layers, both axially and circumferentially. Similar loss tangent values were found across the three layers. A large increase in the storage modulus from static to dynamic experiments further corroborates the importance of a viscoelastic model of the aorta, rather than solely hyperelastic.

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