Integrated Heart—Coupling multiscale and multiphysics models for the simulation of the cardiac function

Alfio Quarteroni, Toni Lassila, Simone Rossi, Ricardo Ruiz-Baier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

161 Citations (Scopus)


Mathematical modeling of the human heart and its function can expand our understanding of various cardiac diseases, which remain the most common cause of death in the developed world. Like other physiological systems, the heart can be understood as a complex multiscale system involving interacting phenomena at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organ levels. This article addresses the numerical modeling of many aspects of heart function, including the interaction of the cardiac electrophysiology system with contractile muscle tissue, the sub-cellular activation–contraction mechanisms, as well as the hemodynamics inside the heart chambers. Resolution of each of these sub-systems requires separate mathematical analysis and specially developed numerical algorithms, which we review in detail. By using specific sub-systems as examples, we also look at systemic stability, and explain for example how physiological concepts such as microscopic force generation in cardiac muscle cells, translate to coupled systems of differential equations, and how their stability properties influence the choice of numerical coupling algorithms. Several numerical examples illustrate three fundamental challenges of developing multiphysics and multiscale numerical models for simulating heart function, namely: (i) the correct upscaling from single-cell models to the entire cardiac muscle, (ii) the proper coupling of electrophysiology and tissue mechanics to simulate electromechanical feedback, and (iii) the stable simulation of ventricular hemodynamics during rapid valve opening and closure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-407
Number of pages63
JournalComputer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Coupling of multiphysics and multiscale models
  • Electrophysiology
  • Finite element methods
  • Navier–Stokes equations
  • Nonlinear elasticity
  • Simulation of cardiac diseases

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