The fractal heart - embracing mathematics in the cardiology clinic

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2017 Jan;14(1):56-64. doi: 10.1038/nrcardio.2016.161. Epub 2016 Oct 6.


For clinicians grappling with quantifying the complex spatial and temporal patterns of cardiac structure and function (such as myocardial trabeculae, coronary microvascular anatomy, tissue perfusion, myocyte histology, electrical conduction, heart rate, and blood-pressure variability), fractal analysis is a powerful, but still underused, mathematical tool. In this Perspectives article, we explain some fundamental principles of fractal geometry and place it in a familiar medical setting. We summarize studies in the cardiovascular sciences in which fractal methods have successfully been used to investigate disease mechanisms, and suggest potential future clinical roles in cardiac imaging and time series measurements. We believe that clinical researchers can deploy innovative fractal solutions to common cardiac problems that might ultimately translate into advancements for patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Imaging Techniques / methods
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Fractals*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Myocardium / pathology