New method measures turbulence in the heart

Altered blood flow in the heart can lead to inefficient, unfavourable pumping of the blood. Using a new method, researchers at Linköping University have now been able to measure turbulent blood flow in the left ventricle of the heart.

The MRI-based method was developed in cross-disciplinary collaboration between engineers and medical students at the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV) and the Physiology Clinic at Linköping University Hospital. The research group studied patients with congestive heart failure, and patients with healthy hearts, in the MRI scanner. The results, reported in Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, show significant differences between both groups.

“A question that has long been unanswered is whether there is a significant degree of turbulence in a healthy heart. Now we can study this through three-dimensional imaging and measurement of the turbulence kinetic energy of the blood in the left ventricle of the heart, which is the one that pumps the blood,” says reader and consultant Carl-Johan Carlhäll, who led the study.

It turned out that the turbulence in the eleven people with healthy hearts was low, but significantly higher in the nine patients with enlarged and impaired left ventricles. The discovery could contribute to explaining the origins of certain unsound heartbeats, and to improving the assessment of ventricle function in patients.

“Future objectives include conducting follow-up studies on larger patient groups to determine if turbulent flow can predict the development of illness. Only after that will we know whether the method provides useful information in clinical work,” Dr Carlhäll says.

Article: “Turbulent Kinetic Energy in Normal and Myopathic Left Ventricles” by Jakub Zajac, Jonatan Eriksson, Petter Dyverfeldt, Ann F. Bolger, Tino Ebbers and Carl-Johan Carlhäll. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, online 8 April 2014. DOI: 10.1002/jmri.24633

Picture: Turbulence kinetic energy (red) and speed (blue) of blood in the left ventricle (VK) during the ventricular filling stage. Patient with congestive heart failure (left) and healthy test subject (right). VF=Left atrium.