Laser techniques for vibration measurement, due to their non-contact nature, represents an interesting alternative investigational tool to be tested in biomedical and clinic fields. A particular application could be as evaluation method in design and quality control of artificial organs. Aim of this study is to investigate the application of laser vibrometry to the study of mechanical heart valves in-vitro, with an ad hoc set-up. A heterodyne laser Doppler vibrometry system, which allows the measurement of both vibrational velocity and displacement was used. Three different approaches have been carried out, in order to stress the limits of the laser vibrometry technique for testing heart valve prostheses. Critical points and difficulties to build up experimental studies in this field were clearly pointed out. In the present study only one laser head was used, the aim of the authors being to test the feasibility of a simplified approach on mechanical cardiac valves. Starting from that analysis a comparison could be made to assess the capability to discriminate between normal and malfunctioning devices. The advantage of the proposed test bench is that it could provide a non-contact, non-destructive analysis of the valve under the same working conditions as those upon implantation. The proposed method could furnish a typical "fingerprint" characterizing each valve behavior in repeatable experimental conditions.
The measure of the regurgitant flow through heart valves provides an indication of the severity of the valve closure dysfunction with diagnostic relevance. The estimation of the volume passing through the closed valve during systole, and its ratio with the ejection volume, can significantly improve the assessment of an ongoing valvular pathology. The noninvasive quantification of flow converging to the valve is still lacking a satisfying degree of precision. The most popular technique is the Proximal Isovelocity Surface Area (PISA), which assumes that, in the flow field upstream of the valve, the surfaces corresponding to the same velocity are spherical, whence the regurgitant flow is estimated by multiplication with the hemispherical surface area. In the present study, a new method is proposed of color Doppler echocardiography image processing, for regurgitant flow measurements. In this method, called Proximal Arbitrary Surface Conservative Assessment of Leakage (PASCAL), the laws of fluid dynamics are used to reconstruct the entire flow field, in the hypothesis of axial symmetry, starting from the echographic Doppler mapping of one component of velocity. In vitro experiments have confirmed that the new method provides better flow estimates than PISA, on account of its more rigorous physical model of the regurgitant flow.