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Detecting heart failure with new mathematical methods

2014-10-28

Johannes Töger has combined methods from various fields of mathematics, including some from non-linear dynamic systems, which are traditionally used to describe chaotic processes. In addition, he used so-called partial differential equations to provide a better image of blood flow in the heart.

Johannes Töger, doctoral student at the Faculty of Engineering.

Using a magnetic resonance imaging device and new mathematical methods, researchers have obtained a better tool for observing blood flow in the heart. This could make it easier to detect heart failure, which is a common problem among the elderly.

The research was carried out by doctoral student Johannes Töger, who works at the Division for Numerical Analysis at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Lund University Faculty of Engineering. His doctoral thesis, which was written in cooperation with the Division for Clinical Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine in Lund, will be presented in mid-October.

A common problem among elderly people is that the left ventricle of the heart becomes stiffer and cannot properly fill with blood. This means that the heart cannot pump out enough blood when the body requires it, leading to heart failure. This is why researchers are increasingly interested in how the blood moves at the precise moment when the left ventricle is filling up. Thanks to magnetic resonance tomography, MR, it is possible to observe how the blood flows into the ventricle.

Through a combination of MR and new, advanced mathematical methods for calculating how the blood flows into the ventricle, Johannes Töger and his research colleagues observed that the blood forms a particular vortex movement.

It emerged that the vortex varies between healthy hearts and those with certain diseases. The researchers therefore believe that the vortex is the most effective way of moving the blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. Their understanding of how the heart pumps is growing by the day. A better understanding of cardiac function will hopefully lead to more accurate diagnoses and better treatment of patients with heart disease.

“We now have a new tool for observing blood flow and we can show things that nobody has been able to show before. The hope is to be able to determine who is ill and needs treatment, or at least to produce measurable values which can help in this assessment. Currently, there is no good way of determining the severity of heart failure”, says Johannes Töger.