A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, working with cardiologists in Madrid, Spain, say that they have developed a novel ultrasound technology that makes cardiac screening cheaper and much easier, making it possible to reach a larger number of people of all ages. They used the technique to determine the impact of a ring-shaped vortex on transporting blood flow within the human heart.

Intra-ventricular flow imaging is currently done with MRI scans, which is expensive and not suitable for patients with implanted devices such as pacemakers, and difficult to do on infants.

Their findings could impact the tests and measurements that physicians rely on to diagnose and treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy. Nearly one million Americans suffer from either one of these conditions.

For this study, all subjects underwent comprehensive 2D echocardiographic exams. Then, engineers processed the images with methods typically used to create flow simulations for the aeronautical and naval industries, capturing the blood flow inside each subject’s hearts.

Researchers found that the ring-shaped vortex helps to allocate about 15 percent of the blood flow within the left ventricle in healthy patients; roughly 20 percent in patients with non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy; but only about 5 percent for patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.