Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the developed countries. Its progression is typically associated with cardiac remodeling, a term indicating structural and functional changes of the heart due to altered hemodynamic load and/or cardiac injury. Early assessment of cardiac remodeling could prevent progression of heart disease and provide more effective therapeutic strategies. However, current evaluation of cardiac remodeling is incomplete as it relies on ultrasonically measuring cardiac volume, flow and tissue velocity but not the intrinsic mechanical properties of the heart.
A technique with tremendous potential for non-invasive tissue characterization is ultrasound-based shear wave elastography (SWE). SWE images the propagation of naturally or acoustically induced mechanical waves inside the tissue of interest (> 1000 frames/s) and links the propagation speed of these waves to tissue stiffness. When applied to the heart, its fundamental working principles are challenged due to the heart’s complex mechanical properties, geometry, hemodynamic state and nature of the wave. This project aims to increase mechanical insights in cardiac SWE using experiments and computer simulations that both provide the link between shear wave characteristics, chamber compliance and mechanical parameters. These insights will be used to improve SWE processing and set up guidelines to assure robust and reliable cardiac tissue characterization.