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The forces generated within the musculature of the left ventricular wall
  1. P P Lunkenheimer1,
  2. K Redmann1,
  3. J Florek1,
  4. U Fassnacht2,
  5. C W Cryer3,
  6. F Wübbeling3,
  7. P Niederer4,
  8. R H Anderson5
  1. 1Klinik und Poliklinik für Thorax-, Herz- und Gefäßchirurgie, University Münster, Munster, Germany
  2. 2Institut für Anatomie, University Münster, Munster, Germany
  3. 3Institut für Numerische Mathematik, University Münster, Munster, Germany
  4. 4Institute of Biomedical Engineering, ETH und Universität Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  5. 5Cardiac Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Prof Dr med P P Lunkenheimer
    Klinik und Poliklinik für Thorax-, Herz- und Gefäßchirurgie, Domagkstraße 11, 48129 Münster, Munster, Germany;


Objectives: To test the hypothesis that two populations of myocardial fibres—fibres aligned parallel to the surfaces of the wall and an additional population of fibres that extend obliquely through the wall—when working in concert produce a dualistic, self stabilising arrangement.

Methods: Assessment of tensile forces in the walls of seven porcine hearts by using needle probes. Ventricular diameter was measured with microsonometry and the intracavitary pressure through a fluid filled catheter. Positive inotropism was induced by dopamine, and negative inotropism by thiopental. The preload was raised by volume load and lowered by withdrawal of blood. Afterload was increased by inflation of a balloon in the aortic root. The anatomical orientation of the fibres was established subsequently in histological sections.

Results: The forces in the fibres parallel to the surface decreased 20–35% during systolic shrinkage of the ventricle, during negative inotropism, and during ventricular unloading. They increased 10–30% on positive inotropic stimulation and with augmentation in preload and afterload. The forces in the oblique transmural fibres increased 8–65% during systole, on positive inotropic medication, with an increase in afterload and during ventricular shrinkage, and decreased 36% on negative inotropic medication. There was a delay of up to 147 ms in the drop in activity during relaxation in the oblique transmural fibres.

Conclusion: Although the two populations of myocardial fibres are densely interwoven, it is possible to distinguish their functions with force probes. The delayed drop in force during relaxation in obliquely oriented fibres indicates that they are hindered in their shortening to an extent that parallels any increase in mural thickness. The transmural fibres, therefore, contribute to stiffening of the ventricular wall and hence to confining ventricular compliance.

  • tangential fibres
  • unloaded contraction
  • oblique transmural fibres
  • auxotonic contraction
  • ventricular shaping

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