A beating heart frozen in time

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

This amazing image is this year’s winner of the British Heart Foundation’s “Reflections of Research” medical image competition, an annual celebration of the U.K. charity’s groundbreaking research into cardiovascular diseases. This is not a painting – it’s a real image of the blood flowing within an adult heart, frozen in time. 

The winning image, titled Go With the Flow, was by Dr. Victoria Stoll, a BHF-funded researcher working at the University of Oxford. One of the four competition judges this year, wildlife photographer Andrew Rouse, explained:

“This winning image of a human heart is simply beautiful. It’s both amazingly abstract and instantly recognizable. My 11-month old daughter is fascinated by it, and she is perhaps the best judge of all, showing that this image is simple yet also very striking, which is what a good photograph should be!”

By using four dimensional cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Dr. Stoll’s image captures blood flowing within the main pumping chambers – the ventricles – of the heart and the vessels leaving the heart. The blue flow is blood that lacks oxygen and is traveling to the lungs to be re-oxygenated. The red flow is blood that has been through the lungs, received oxygen, and is now ready to be pumped around the entire body.

Dr. Stoll is using this type of imaging to look at the blood flow in four dimensions within the hearts of people with heart failure, those whose hearts are not pumping effectively. She has already found that in people with severe heart failure, the blood flows around the heart in a more disordered and disrupted pattern than it does in those whose hearts are pumping as they should.

More than one quarter of all deaths recorded in Britain are caused by cardiovascular disease. The BHF currently funds £70 million of research into heart and circulatory diseases at the University of Oxford, made possible by the generosity of people across the U.K.

Find out what else the British Heart Foundation is up to – such as this fascinating interactive infographic from the BHF called What’s it like to be a woman with heart disease?

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 1.16.29 PM

© 2016 British Heart Foundation

Q: What was your first impression when you saw this winning image of a heart?

See also:

Need some help translating complex cardiology terms? Check out my patient-friendly, jargon-free glossary of hundreds of words, terms and abbreviations!

Two ways to portray heart failure. One of them works.

Bypassing bypass surgery by growing new arteries

Finally. An official scientific statement on heart attacks in women.

Heart attack: is it a clogged pipe or a popped pimple?




8 thoughts on “A beating heart frozen in time

  1. Thank you for this informative piece, Beating Heart, Carolyn. I have been enjoying and learning from your excellent website Heart Sisters. I learn so much from you and your readers.

    I live in Northern Ireland and agree totally with what you said in your article. It’s a magnificent picture, I would love to have it on my wall. Also on other points raised: I too wait too long to take my nitro spray, thinking it will go away or react like the lady in the video, doing everything but dialing the ambulance.

    I am on a urgent waiting list for a fourth stent and could very easily slip into depression. I have great friends and family who keep me active, have changed my diet to more fruit and vegs, I have a great local doctor who listens to me and a wonderful cardiologist who assures me I’m doing well. I am optimistic most of the time and do my best to keep the sunny side out.

    Thank you again for Heart Sisters, I feel I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello from Canada, Brenda and thanks so much for your kind words about my blog. You are definitely NOT alone – there are many of us out here. I hope you don’t have to wait much longer for your stent (waiting is THE WORST!) Best of luck to you – and keep that sunny side out!


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