Cardiac arrhythmias and conduction disturbances are accompanied by structural remodelling of the specialised cardiomyocytes known collectively as the cardiac conduction system. Here, using contrast enhanced micro-computed tomography, we present, in attitudinally appropriate fashion, the first 3-dimensional representations of the cardiac conduction system within the intact human heart. We show that cardiomyocyte orientation can be extracted from these datasets at spatial resolutions approaching the single cell. These data show that commonly accepted anatomical representations are oversimplified. We have incorporated the high-resolution anatomical data into mathematical simulations of cardiac electrical depolarisation. The data presented should have multidisciplinary impact. Since the rate of depolarisation is dictated by cardiac microstructure, and the precise orientation of the cardiomyocytes, our data should improve the fidelity of mathematical models. By showing the precise 3-dimensional relationships between the cardiac conduction system and surrounding structures, we provide new insights relevant to valvar replacement surgery and ablation therapies. We also offer a practical method for investigation of remodelling in disease, and thus, virtual pathology and archiving. Such data presented as 3D images or 3D printed models, will inform discussions between medical teams and their patients, and aid the education of medical and surgical trainees.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).