Despite Leonardo da Vinci’s observation (circa 1511) that “the atria or filling chambers contract together while the pumping chambers or ventricles are relaxing and vice versa,” the dynamics of four-chamber heart function, and of diastolic function (DF) in particular, are not generally appreciated. We view DF from a global perspective, while characterizing it in terms of causality and clinical relevance. Our models derive from the insight that global DF is ultimately a result of forces generated by elastic recoil, modulated by cross-bridge relaxation, and load. The interaction between recoil and relaxation results in physical wall motion that generates pressure gradients that drive fluid flow, while epicardial wall motion is constrained by the pericardial sac. Traditional DF indexes (τ, E/Eʹ, etc.) are not derived from causal mechanisms and are interpreted as approximating either stiffness or relaxation, but not both, thereby limiting the accuracy of DF quantification. Our derived kinematic models of isovolumic relaxation and suction-initiated filling are extensively validated, quantify the balance between stiffness and relaxation, and provide novel mechanistic physiological insight. For example, causality-based modeling provides load-independent indexes of DF and reveals that both stiffness and relaxation modify traditional DF indexes. The method has revealed that the in vivo left ventricular equilibrium volume occurs at diastasis, predicted novel relationships between filling and wall motion, and quantified causal relationships between ventricular and atrial function. In summary, by using governing physiological principles as a guide, we define what global DF is, what it is not, and how to measure it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1392-H1406
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2015


  • Diastolic function
  • Echocardiography
  • Hemodynamics
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Suction pump


Dive into the research topics of 'What global diastolic function is, what it is not, and how to measure it'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this