KNOXVILLE--No one can deny that open-heart surgery, where the heart is exposed and the blood is made to bypass it, is one of the most invasive of all medical procedures. Nearly a third of all patients undergoing heart surgery experience kidney failure, yet little is known about why kidney injury occurs or how to prevent it.

Now, for the first time, a team of researchers in the United States and Australia have investigated the causes of kidney injury, using a mathematical model that simulates typical open-heart surgery and the effects on a rat kidney. The model uses algorithms to simulate the transport of fluids through the kidney's inner and outer regions and the ureter, the tube that carries urine to the bladder.

The model shows that during the surgery, the amount of oxygen within certain sub-regions of the kidney drops to critical levels. The low oxygen levels make the sub-regions vulnerable to hypoxia, which if left uncontrolled could result in injury to the kidneys. The study was published today in the journal Mathematical Medicine and Biology.

"With mathematical modeling, we can basically avoid any of the experimental and clinical limitations associated with real life models," explained Ioannis Sgouralis, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

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