Active contraction of the left ventricle with cardiac tissue modelled as a micromorphic medium

Master Thesis


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The myocardium is composed of interconnected cardiac fibres which are responsible for contraction of the heart chambers. There are several challenges related to computational modelling of cardiac muscle tissue. This is due in part to the anisotropic, non-linear and time-dependent behaviour as well as the complex hierarchical material structure of biological tissues. In general, cardiac tissue is treated as a non-linear elastic and incompressible material. Most computational studies employ the theories of classical continuum mechanics to model the passive response of the myocardium and typically assume the myocardium to be either a transversely isotropic material or an orthotropic material. In this study, instead of a classical continuum formulation, we utilise a micromorphic continuum description for cardiac tissue. The use of a micromorphic model is motivated by the complex microstructure and deformations experienced by cardiac fibres during a heartbeat. The micromorphic theory may be viewed as an extension of the classical continuum theory. Within a micromorphic continuum, continuum particles are endowed with extra degrees of freedom by attaching additional vectors, referred to as directors, to the particles. In this study the directors are chosen such that they represent the deformation experienced by the cardiac fibres. In addition to the passive stresses, the myocardium experiences active stresses as a result of the active tension generated by cardiac fibres. The active tension in the heart is taken to be a function of the sarcomere length, intracellular calcium concentration and the time after the onset of contraction. Experimental studies show that the active behaviour of the myocardium is highly dependent on the tissue arrangement in the heart wall. With a classical continuum description, the sarcomere length is usually defined as a function of the stretch in the initial fibre direction. To allow for a more realistic description of the active behaviour, we define the sarcomere orientation, and consequently also the sarcomere stretch, as a function of the director field. Furthermore, we use the director field to describe the direction in which contraction takes place. The intent of this study is to use a micromorphic continuum formulation and an active-stress model to investigate the behaviour of the left ventricular myocardium during a heartbeat. The simulated results presented here correspond well with typical ventricular mechanics observed in clinical experiments. This work demonstrates the potential of a micromorphic formulation for analysing and better understanding ventricular mechanics.