The Helical Heart

A revolution in cardiac anatomy

The heart was thought to have a helical structure for 500 years. However, unwinding the structure to define this configuration has not been possible until Dr. F. Torrent-Guasp used hand dissection to successfully unfold this “Gordian Knot” of anatomic architecture, and demonstrate for the world the ventricular myocardial band. Re-scrolling this cardiac structure into its natural biologic configuration shows two loops that are termed a transverse basal loop which is an external buttress embracing the left and right ventricles, and an oblique apical loop containing a figure of 8 configuration that forms a helix with a conical apex. This helix comprises the septum and left ventricle.

This helical shape causes the twisting (or wringing) and untwisting of heart muscle to allow for both the ejection of blood, and suction for cardiac filling. The power of this structure is the simplicity of formation, as these sequential actions follow each other before the next heart beat. Disruption of this normal shape relationship occurs when the conical (or elliptical) heart becomes a sphere. Such distortion of the normal geometric form causes the enlarged heart of patients with congestive heart failure.

This normal anatomic configuration is illustrated with the unfolded heart possessing a rope-like form comprised of a left and right segment of the basal loop. The sequential scrolling back into the natural form allows the basal loop to embrace the oblique segments (descending and ascending) of the apical loop and to form the helical shape and buttress wrapping that underlies cardiac function.

"Anatomists have traditionally dissected the heart, but they did not understand the perennial problem of where the heart started and where the heart stopped. Dr. Torrent-Guasp has solved this mystery by showing the site of origin and end of the myocardial fiber band."

Gerald D. Buckberg M.D., "Basic Science Review: The helix and the heart". The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Vol. 124, No. 5, Nov. 2002.

You can download a power point presentation of the process below.

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