The study of cardiovascular models was presented in this paper based on medical image reconstruction and computational fluid dynamics. Our aim is to provide a reality platform for the purpose of flow analysis and virtual intervention outcome predication for vascular diseases. By connecting two porous mediums with transient permeability at the downstream of the carotid bifurcation branches, a downstream peripheral impedance model was developed, and the effect of the downstream vascular bed impedance can be taken into consideration. After verifying its accuracy with a healthy carotid bifurcation, this model was implemented in a diseased carotid bifurcation analysis. On the basis of time-averaged wall shear stress, oscillatory shear index, and the relative residence time, fractions of abnormal luminal surface were highlighted, and the atherosclerosis was assessed from a hemodynamic point of view. The effect of the atherosclerosis on the transient flow division between the two branches because of the existence of plaque was also analysed. This work demonstrated that the proposed downstream peripheral vascular impedance model can be used for computational modelling when the outlets boundary conditions are not available, and successfully presented the potential of using medical imaging and numerical simulation to provide existing clinical prerequisites for diagnosis and therapeutic treatment. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.