The structure and function of the helical heart and its buttress wrapping. I. The normal macroscopic structure of the heart

Francisco Torrent-Guasp, Gerald D. Buckberg*, Carmine Clemente, James Lewis Cox, H. Cecil Coghlan, Morteza Gharib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

225 Scopus citations


The Gordian knot of anatomy has been the architectural arrangement of ventricular muscle mass, which may have finally become understood. The description of Francisco Torrent-Guasp's model of the helical heart is presented, which includes the cardiac structures that produce 2 simple loops that start at the pulmonary artery and end in the aorta. An unscrolled ventricular band is shown, achieved by blunt dissection that extends between the points of origin of the right ventricle, at the pulmonary artery root, to termination at the aortic root, in the left ventricle. These components include a spiral horizontal basal loop that surrounds the right and left ventricular cavities, and changes direction to cause a second spiral, produced by almost vertically oriented fibers, giving rise to the helical configuration of the ventricular myocardial band. These anatomic structures are successively activated, as with a peristaltic wave, starting at the right ventricle (just below the pulmonary artery) and progressing toward the aorta to produce a sequence of narrowing, caused by the basal loop contraction, shortening (related predominantly to the descendant segment contraction), lengthening (produced by the ascendant segment contraction), and widening, as a consequence of several factors that act during ventricular myocardium relaxation. These sequences control the ventricular events responsible for ejection to empty and suction to fill. These mechanical interactions of structure and function are defined in relation to chronologic location of the successive cardiac functional events in the aortic, left ventricular, and left atrial recordings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-319
Number of pages19
JournalSeminars in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Apical loop
  • Basal loop
  • Helical heart
  • Muscular band
  • Normal macroscopic structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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