Hearts 101

The 3D Heart Project offers interactive and educational heart models, instructional videos, and descriptions of congenital heart defects (CHD).

Here is some information to help you understand how a heart works and get you started before exploring the heart library.

How a heart worksUnderstanding the heart libraryHow to create a heart model

How a heart works 

The heart is a complex organ and can be hard to understand. Here is a video from the Mayo Clinic giving you a basic overview of a heart without a congenital heart defect.

What is a congenital heart defect (CHD)

Congenital heart disease or defects are issues with the anatomy or physiology of the heart, that are present at birth. They can range in severity and cause various symptoms. These defects may be identified before birth, at birth, or later on in life. We hope to help you improve your understanding of CHD and help relieve some of the stress and confusion.

Here is a video from the Mayo Clinic explaining congenital heart defects.

Understanding Heart Anatomy & Bloodflow

The heart is like a pump, with four chambers. The top two chambers (Called atria) collect blood, like a bucket. The bottom two chambers (called ventricles) are strong muscles and they push the blood out of the heart, towards the lungs or the body. Deoxygenated (blue) blood flows through the right side of the heart to the lungs. The lungs oxygenate the blood, this (red) blood flows back to the left side of the heart and is pumped throughout the body.

Understanding the heart library

Our models give you a 3 dimensional representation of the heart. You can compare a drawing of a normal heart, to a 3D model of a normal heart.

Rotate, zoom in, and learn about the anatomy and physiology.

2D Diagram

This 2D diagram of a heart shows the blood flow within a normal heart. It shows the two halves of the heart, blue representing deoxygenated blood returning to the heart and going to the lungs, and red representing oxygenated blood coming from the lungs to be sent to the body.

3D Model

This is a model of a normal teenage heart with no defects. It has been coloured to show the two halves of the heart - blue representing the deoxygenated blood and red representing the oxygenated blood. In this model, you can also see the outline of the heart muscle (myocardium) around the ventricles and atria.

Use the annotations to learn about the parts of the heart and how blood flows through the heart, to the lungs, and then to the rest of the body.

The types of models

To help you understand specific Congenital Heart Defects we have created our models in a few different ways.

Whole Heart Model

In a whole heart model the muscle of the heart called the myocardium is included. These models are great for showing the size and shape of the heart, but need to be cut into to show any issues with the internal anatomy.

This model is of a heart with a partial atrial-ventricular septal defect. This means there is a large hole in the septum between the atria and a smaller hole between the ventricles.

Bloodpool Model

In a bloodpool model just the blood within the heart is included. These models are great for showing how the blood flows through the heart, and how a defect is affecting the heart’s physiology.

Bloodpool models may look a bit strange, and take a bit more time to understand.

This model is of a heart with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left side of the heart is very small. This heart has had a Glenn procedure which redirects some of the blue deoxygenated blood directly to the lungs.

Creating a heart model

Here are links to more advanced resources to help you create a physical 3D printed version of one of our models, or create your own model from a medical scan.