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Cardiac Flow Patterns

his figure shows the flow pattern in a thin section through a model heart in the neighborhood of the aortic valve during ventricular ejection. Aortic structures are shown in yellow (other parts of the heart model are not shown). The flow pattern is represented by streamlines, which are calculated from the 3-D velocity field at the instant shown. Flow is passing from the left ventricle upward through the aortic valve into the aorta. Note the prominent vortex in the cavity behind the valve leaflet, near the left center of the figure. There is such a cavity, known as an aortic sinus, behind each of the three leaflets of the aortic valve. Because of the orientation of the valve relative to the plane of the section, the vortex in only one of these sinuses is visible. Vortices such as these are believed to play an important role in closing the aortic valve when ejection is complete.