Based on the Visible Human Female, we developed a high-resolution 3D model of the human heart. With this model, it is possible to simulate the excitation patterns of the beating heart, so that the mechanisms of pattern formation can be studied.
The heartbeat is driven by the cardiac excitation cycle. It consists of an electrical wave that propagates through the myocardial tissue, which can be observed using electrocardiography (ECG). To simulate the excitation cycle, the anatomical 3D heart model was extended by a 3D cellular automaton. Using a volume editor, the sinus node, the atrioventricular node, and the excitation conduction system were added to the model.
The model shows the normal behaviour of the beating heart (left, excited areas in yellow). The excitation is generated in the sinus node and propagates over the atria and the atrioventricular node to the ventricles. Eventually, the ventricles recover and the excitation subsides (see also as animation).
When the parameters of the model are varied according to changes in real ischemic myocardial tissue (heart attack), excitation patterns appear that resemble certain cardiac arrhythmias.
For example, variations of the excitability threshold lead to patterns corresponding to atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. In case of atrial flutter (center), a circling macro-reentry with irregular activity is seen, while the ventricular excitation pattern remains unchanged. For the atrial fibrillation (right), macro-reentry is no longer evident and the atrial excitation pattern appears completely detached.
For images of the heart inside the thorax, have a look at the torso and inner organs.
- Jan Freudenberg, Thomas Schiemann, Ulf Tiede, Karl Heinz Höhne: Simulation of cardiac excitation patterns in a three-dimensional anatomical heart atlas. Computers in Biology and Medicine 30, 4 (2000), 191-205.
- Thomas Schiemann, Jan Freudenberg, Bernhard Pflesser, Andreas Pommert, Kay Priesmeyer, Martin Riemer, Rainer Schubert, Ulf Tiede, Karl Heinz Höhne: Exploring the Visible Human using the VOXEL-MAN framework . Computerized Medical Imaging and Graphics 24, 3 (2000), 127-132.
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