Smidt Heart Institute study uncovers why the heart's shape matters

Researchers at Los Angeles-based Smidt Heart Institute found the shape of a patient's heart can indicate risk of disease.

The study, published March 29 in Med, used deep learning and advanced imaging analysis to study the heart structure of 38,897 healthy individuals from the UK Biobank. It found patients with round hearts shaped like baseballs were 31 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation and 24 percent more likely to develop cardiomyopathy than patients with longer heart shapes.

Researchers say the findings could help diagnose cardiac disease more effectively and prevent many conditions.

"A change in the heart’s shape may be a first sign of disease," Christine Albert, MD, chair of the department of cardiology in the Smidt Heart Institute and a study author, said in the release. "Understanding how a heart changes when faced with illness—coupled with now having more reliable and intuitive imaging to support this knowledge—is a critical step in prevention for two life-altering diseases."

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