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Structural, Thermal and CFD Simulation for Medical Devices

Medical Product Development Process | FEA Consulting & CFD Consulting
August 16, 2017 By: Chris Mesibov

We all know from experience how easy it is to drop or hit our electronic devices against walls and door knobs. We can drop them too. Many times, the devices don’t show much damage. This durability is due the work of an industrial design engineer, who performed structural simulation to ensure a more reliable device. 

Durability is even more important for a patient who is not so mobile. If a critical communications device gets damaged from a fall, then there is no way for the physician or nurse to know the individual is in trouble. It’s a necessity to build components that are designed to withstand knocks.

Preventing leakage for underwater use is also important, as is ensuring sufficient fatigue life due to thermal cycling.

Comfort is another crucial design requirement. Modelling the heat flow to ensure components remain cool, but also evaluating patient comfort by modelling sweat to prevent “sticking” of the device to the patient, is especially important for body worn wireless tech.

Most critical are medical devices that provide life-sustaining functions.  Coronary medical devices installed by catherization save lives without open heart surgery.  Devices such as aortic stents and replacement valves benefit from simulations applied to the devices themselves, along with how they interreact to the heart/artery tissue. In addition, simulations of the surgical procedures themselves are invaluable to surgeons.

In the figure below we see the CFD solution showing velocity streamlines through a replacement valve, along with pressure contours on the artery wall. It is important to ensure that circulation regions are not present, where blood clots could form, and that pressure on the artery wall remains below acceptable limits.

In another application, CFD can be used as a diagnostic tool to determine if an arterial stent is required by determining the pressure across a suspected artery blockage.  From medical imaging data provided to the simulation model, an exact pressure drop across the blockage can be obtained without the need to catheter a pressure probe. 

As another example, tracking pulmonary particle deposition in the lungs using CFD simulation leads to significant improvements in inhaler design.

Fluid flow in the human body can be very complicated, requiring robust CFD tools to ensure valid solutions for these critical applications.


In another application, CFD can be used as a diagnostic tool to determine if an arterial stent is required by determining the pressure across a suspected artery blockage.  From medical imaging data provided to the simulation model, an exact pressure drop across the blockage can be obtained without the need to catheter a pressure probe. 

As another example, tracking pulmonary particle deposition in the lungs using CFD simulation leads to significant improvements in inhaler design.

Fluid flow in the human body can be very complicated, requiring robust CFD tools to ensure valid solutions for these critical applications.

Thus far, I have talked about simulating various medical devices and processes using different physics independently. However, to reach the goal of a “digital twin” we must begin to think about looking at entire systems and multiple physics acting simultaneously. Below is an ANSYS model of an artificial heart developed by researchers. For this application, Multiphysics simulation is required because of the importance of the electromagnetic forces, fluid flow, and structural deformation in determining pump performance for this life-saving device. Analysis of each physics independently would leave gaping holes in the understanding of its behavior under real operating conditions.

I hope that you found this series of blogs to be useful and informative in demonstrating how simulation is meeting healthcare industry challenges in many aspects of medical product development and patient care.

Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below.