How viscous is the beating heart?: Insights from a computational study

Comput Mech. 2022 Sep;70(3):565-579. doi: 10.1007/s00466-022-02180-z. Epub 2022 May 13.


Understanding tissue rheology is critical to accurately model the human heart. While the elastic properties of cardiac tissue have been extensively studied, its viscous properties remain an issue of ongoing debate. Here we adopt a viscoelastic version of the classical Holzapfel Ogden model to study the viscous timescales of human cardiac tissue. We perform a series of simulations and explore stress-relaxation curves, pressure-volume loops, strain profiles, and ventricular wall strains for varying viscosity parameters. We show that the time window for model calibration strongly influences the parameter identification. Using a four-chamber human heart model, we observe that, during the physiologically relevant time scales of the cardiac cycle, viscous relaxation has a negligible effect on the overall behavior of the heart. While viscosity could have important consequences in pathological conditions with compromised contraction or relaxation properties, we conclude that, for simulations within the physiological range of a human heart beat, we can reasonably approximate the human heart as hyperelastic.

Keywords: cardiac mechanics; finite element method; human heart; myocardium; viscoelasticity.