Physical vein models to quantify the flow performance of sclerosing foams
Bottaro E., Paterson J., Zhang X., Hill M., Patel VA., Jones SA., Lewis AL., Millar TM., Carugo D.
Foam sclerotherapy is clinically employed to treat varicose veins. It involves intravenous injection of foamed surfactant agents causing endothelial wall damage and vessel shrinkage, leading to subsequent neovascularization. Foam production methods used clinically include manual techniques, such as the Double Syringe System (DSS) and Tessari (TSS) methods. Pre-clinical in-vitro studies are conducted to characterize the performance of sclerosing agents; however, the experimental models used often do not replicate physiologically relevant physical and biological conditions. In this study, physical vein models (PVMs) were developed and employed for the first time to characterize the flow behavior of sclerosing foams. PVMs were fabricated in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) by replica molding, and were designed to mimic qualitative geometrical characteristics of veins. Foam behavior was investigated as a function of different physical variables, namely (i) geometry of the vein model (i.e., physiological vs. varicose vein), (ii) foam production technique, and (iii) flow rate of a blood surrogate. The experimental set-up consisted of a PVM positioned on an inclined platform, a syringe pump to control the flow rate of a blood substitute, and a pressure transducer. The static pressure of the blood surrogate at the PVM inlet was measured upon foam administration. The recorded pressure-time curves were analyzed to quantify metrics of foam behavior, with a particular focus on foam expansion and degradation dynamics. Results showed that DSS and TSS foams had similar expansion rate in the physiological PVM, whilst DSS foam had lower expansion rate in the varicose PVM compared to TSS foam. The degradation rate of DSS foam was lower than TSS foam, in both model architectures. Moreover, the background flow rate had a significant effect on foam behavior, enhancing foam displacement rate in both types of PVM.