Heart-shaped Heart Simulator


A few years ago, [Addie] over at Tymkrs put together a spooky little Halloween project: a small Propeller board that emulates the electrical signals in a heart. As a cardiac nurse, she thought her project could use a little improvement, and after two years she’s finally done. It’s a heart-shaped board that simulates electrical signals moving through the heart.

There are several key areas that conduct electrical signals through the heart – the sinoatrial node, atrioventricular node, and bundle branches all work like players in an orchestra to keep a heart beating like it should. If something goes wrong with one of these, the heart goes into tachycardia or fibrillation – not good, by any measure. [Addie]’s board simulates all the different ways a heart can go wrong with LEDs standing in for the electrical signals in a real heart. The name of the game here is to look at the LEDs and tell what state the heart is in.

The PCB heart is just one part of [Addie]’s heart simulator. The simulated heart can also plug into a neat little heart-shaped project box wired up with a solenoid, LCD display, headphone jack, and other electronics to turn this electronic heart into a complete study tool for heart rhythms. The nurses in [Addie]’s unit love the thing, and it looks like [Addie] might have a real cardiac training tool on here hands here.


12 thoughts on “Heart-shaped Heart Simulator

  1. This is really cool, very neat and great to see how far along it’s come since the first edition.

    However, unfortunately not useful for doctors, we can’t get past the need to be able to read an ECG. And while it’s super helpful to be able to visualise conduction this is done so much better with simulated images.

    For heart sounds anatomy is vital and I think Litmanns gives away a software when you can see MRI cine in sync with the heart sounds, that kind of thing is far more useful. I do give training to medical students and the odd interested nurse and this is the software I usually use along with ECGs (though I stick to pattern recognition forECGs).

    Not ragging on your project it’s great. Just not much of a training aid.

    1. For obvious reasons, being able to see an ECG is invariably more diagnostically useful than LEDs blinking away :). But I think it /can/ be of benefit to doctors – whether that’s explaining what happens in the heart during a particular rhythm, or by allowing patients/nurses/doctors to actually feel a pulse so they know what to look for. (And not on a 5000 dollar simulation dummy!).

      I took it to my unit, and many of the student nurses were able to learn how to read rhythms just by looking at the LED heart, then correlate it to the ECG. But ultimately, this is a glorified LED heart ;)

  2. Ok, what about building a defibrillator based on this design that would use it’s sequencing as base for a pinpoint electric heart jump start by discharging in each respective areas in the same order a heart would under normal function?

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