The quasi-static mechanical behaviour of the aortic valve (AV) is highly non-linear and anisotropic in nature and reflects the complex collagen fibre kinematics in response to applied loading. However, little is known about the viscoelastic behaviour of the AV. The aim of this study was to investigate porcine AV tissue under uniaxial tensile deformation, in order to establish the directional dependence of its viscoelastic behaviour. Rate dependency associated with different mechanical properties was investigated, and a new viscoelastic model incorporating rate effects developed, based on the Kelvin-Voigt model. Even at low applied loads, experimental results showed rate dependency in the stress-strain response, and also hysteresis and dissipation effects. Furthermore, corresponding values of each parameter depended on the loading direction. The model successfully predicted the experimental data and indicated a 'shear-thinning' behaviour. By extrapolating the experimental data to that at physiological strain rates, the model predicts viscous damping coefficients of 8.3 MPa s and 3.9 MPa s, in circumferential and radial directions, respectively. This implies that the native AV offers minimal resistance to internal shear forces induced by blood flow, a potentially critical design feature for substitute implants. These data suggest that the mechanical behaviour of the AV cannot be thoroughly characterised by elastic deformation and fibre recruitment assumptions alon
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