The heart's fibre alignment assessed by comparing two digitizing systems. Methodological investigation into the inclination angle towards wall thickness

Technol Health Care. 1997 Apr;5(1-2):65-77.


Myocardial contractile pathways which are not aligned strictly parallel to the heart's epicardial surface, give rise to forces which also act in the ventricular dilating direction. We developed a method which allows us to assess any fibre orientation in the three-dimensional myocardial weave. Decollagenized hearts were prepared by peeling-off fibre strands, following their main fibre orientation down to near the endocardium. In the subepicardium the strands followed a course more or less parallel to the epicardium, whereas from the mid-wall on they tended to dive progressively deeper into the wall. The preparation displays more or less rugged surfaces rather than smooth layers. The grooves and crests on the exposed surfaces were sequentially digitized by two methods: (1) Using a magnet tablet (3 Draw Digitizer System, Polhemus, Cochester VTO 5446, USA) on a dilated pig heart we manually followed the crests using a stylus, handling each groove and crest as an individual contractile pathway. (2) A constricted cow heart was digitized using a contact-free optical system (opto TOP, Dr. Breuckmann, Meersburg, Germany), which is based on the principle of imaging triangulation. Using specially developed software the inclination angles of selected crests and grooves with respect to the epicardial surface were calculated. The two digitizing methods yield comparable results. We found a depth- and side-specific weave component inclined to the epi-endocardial direction. This oblique netting component was more pronounced in the inner 1/3 of the wall than in the subepicardium. The inclination angle probably increases with increasing wall thickness during the ejection period. Manual digitizing is an easy and fast method which delivers consistent results comparable with those obtained by the cumbersome high resolution optical method. The rationales for the assessment of transmural fibre inclination are (1) the putative existence of dilating forces inherent in the myocardial weave and (2) the possible overproportional increase in the oblique transmural weave component during myocardial hypertrophy, which would entail a reduction in efficiency of ventricular performance in terms of haemodynamic work.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Cattle
  • Heart Ventricles / anatomy & histology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / standards
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure*
  • Myofibrils / ultrastructure*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stroke Volume
  • Swine
  • Ventricular Function