Fluid dynamic phenomena are fundamentally important in the function of the heart, and consequently in the design of prosthetic heart valves. Experimental study is complicated by the strongly unsteady and three-dimensional character of flow in the chambers and valves of the heart, and the difficulty of access for instrumentation, even in a laboratory model. This paper describes the novel application of Stereoscopic Particle Image Velocimetry (SPIV) to measure the three-component velocity vector field in a model of the left ventricle with mechanical prosthetic valves. The results illustrate key functional differences between the two prosthetic mitral valves tested. These experiments demonstrate the powerful capability of SPIV as a tool for investigation of the complex flows which occur in biology and medicine.

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