Contemporary paradigm of peripheral and intracranial vascular hemodynamics considers physiologic blood flow to be laminar. Transition to turbulence is considered as a driving factor for numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis, stenosis and aneurysm. Recently, turbulent flow patterns were detected in intracranial aneurysm at Reynolds number below 400 both in vitro and in silico. Blood flow is multiharmonic with considerable frequency spectra and its transition to turbulence cannot be characterized by the current transition theory of monoharmonic pulsatile flow. Thus, we decided to explore the origins of such long-standing assumption of physiologic blood flow laminarity. Here, we hypothesize that the inherited dynamics of blood flow in main arteries dictate the existence of turbulence in physiologic conditions. To illustrate our hypothesis, we have used methods and tools from chaos theory, hydrodynamic stability theory and fluid dynamics to explore the existence of turbulence in physiologic blood flow. Our investigation shows that blood flow, both as described by the Navier–Stokes equation and in vivo, exhibits three major characteristics of turbulence. Womersley’s exact solution of the Navier–Stokes equation has been used with the flow waveforms from HaeMod database, to offer reproducible evidence for our findings, as well as evidence from Doppler ultrasound measurements from healthy volunteers who are some of the authors. We evidently show that physiologic blood flow is: (1) sensitive to initial conditions, (2) in global hydrodynamic instability and (3) undergoes kinetic energy cascade of non-Kolmogorov type. We propose a novel modification of the theory of vascular hemodynamics that calls for rethinking the hemodynamic–biologic links that govern physiologic and pathologic processes.
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