Quantitative Cardiorespiratory Physiology and Clinical Applications for Engineers

Quantitative Cardiorespiratory Physiology

Cardiovascular disease and stroke remain the number one and two killers worldwide, according the American Heart Association. In fact, one in three deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. That’s one of the reasons why medical device companies have always considered cardiology to be one of the most important sectors. New digital technologies, such as wearable devices and connected devices (IoT), have made it easier and less intrusive to record physiological and behavioral data. But recording, tracking, and displaying metrics such as heart rate or the number of daily steps taken only takes us so far. The next wave of medical innovation must involve technologies to make sense of the constellation of personal and physiological data being collected, and to accurately relate such constellations to particular disease states.

That’s a significant challenge, however, in part because the engineers tasked with designing and developing next-generation devices may not be trained in the medical field. Often, then, a significant gap can emerge between the technologies that engineers develop and the kind of technologies and information clinicians require to track particular disease states.

This course presents the functional anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems from an engineering perspective. The goal of the course is to enable engineers and managers from industry to understand the normal cardiorespiratory physiology at the systems level, to predict system behavior under normal operation and pathological stresses, and to understand what commonly monitored clinical signals reveal about the state of the system. Strong emphasis will be placed on describing the cardiovascular system quantitatively, drawing on physical principles and deriving models of cardiovascular and respiratory function that illuminate the organ systems’ operation. The course is structured into these major blocks:

  • Functional anatomy of the cardiovascular systems
  • Function of the heart and peripheral circulation
  • Function of the intact cardiovascular system
  • Control of the cardiovascular system
  • Physical basis of electrocardiography
  • Clinical electrocardiography
  • Functional anatomy of the respiratory system
  • Respiratory mechanics
  • Respiratory gas exchange

The course will be lecture-based, with breakout sessions into small groups to work on hands-on problems that consolidate the concepts presented during lectures and a dissection laboratory to illustrate the functional anatomy of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Presentations by clinicians will give insights into how technology is used in current clinical practice.

This course was previously titled "Quantitative Cardiovascular Physiology and Clinical Applications for Engineers."

Lead Instructor(s): 

Thomas Heldt
Roger Mark


Jun 12, 2017 - Jun 16, 2017

Course Length: 

5 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Closing soon

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course has limited enrollment. Apply early to guarantee your spot.

Participant Takeaways: 

Takeaways from this course include:

  • Understanding the functional anatomy of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Understanding the function of the heart, the peripheral circulation, and the respiratory system in health and disease states
  • Learning how to represent and analyze the function of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems using simple circuit models
  • Learning the physical basis of clinical electrocardiography and learn how to analyze arrhythmias from electrocardiographic recordings
  • Understanding the major neurohumoral control mechanisms that maintain blood pressure homeostasis
  • Understanding commonly measured hemodynamic signals and what they reveal about the state of the cardiovascular system

Who Should Attend: 

This course is designed for a wide range of R&D engineers and managers from industry, academia, and healthcare settings who are actively engaged in biomedical engineering applications (from hardware development and signal processing to clinical applications). The course will also be of interest to hardware engineers and managers working on wearable device development for mobile and ubiquitous vital-sign monitoring, software engineers and managers working on algorithm development for patient-monitoring applications, and clinical engineers and managers working in hospital environments to support clinical operations. Attendees will gain an in-depth understanding of the functional anatomy and physiology of the cardiorespiratory system from an engineering perspective.

Program Outline: 

Day 1

8:00 – 8:30 am            Breakfast

8:30 – 9:00 am            Welcome, introductions, course objectives, goals for Day 1 – Thomas Heldt

9:00 – 9:30 am            Case presentation – Roger Mark

9:30 – 10:00 am          Functional cardiovascular anatomy and cardiac cycle – Thomas Heldt

10:00 – 10:15 am        Break

10:15 – 11:45 pm        The heart as a pump – Thomas Heldt

11:45 – 12:45 pm        Lunch

12:45 – 2:15 pm          The peripheral circulation – Roger Mark

2:15 – 2:30 pm            Transition to animal lab facility

2:30 – 5:30 pm            Anatomy and pathology laboratory – Course staff

5:30 pm                       Adjourn

Day 2

8:00 – 8:30 am            Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45 am            Review of Day 1, goals for Day 2 – Thomas Heldt

8:45 – 10:00 am          The intact circulation – Roger Mark

10:00 – 10:15 am        Break

10:15 am – 12:15 pm  Problem solving session 1 – Course staff

12:15 am – 12:45 pm  Review of problem set – Thomas Heldt

12:45 – 2:00 pm          Lunch

2:00 – 3:00 pm            Cellular electrophysiology – Thomas Heldt  

3:00 – 3:15 pm            Break

3:15 – 4:30 pm            Physical basis of electrocardiography – George Verghese

4:30 – 5:30 pm            Clinical guest lecture

5:30 pm                       Adjourn

6:30 pm                       Course dinner

Day 3

8:00 – 8:30 am            Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45 am            Review of Day 2, goals for Day 3 – Thomas Heldt

8:45 – 10:15 am          Clinical electrocardiography – George Verghese

10:15 – 10:30 am        Break

10:30 am – 12:30 pm  Problem solving session 2 – Course staff

12:30 – 1:30 pm          Lunch

1:30 – 2:00 pm            Review of problem set – Thomas Heldt

2:00 – 4:00 pm            Arrhythmia jeopardy – Roger Mark  

4:00 – 5:30 pm            Clinical guest lecture

5:30 pm                       Adjourn

Day 4

8:00 – 8:30 am            Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45 am            Review of Day 3, goals for Day 4 – Thomas Heldt

8:45 – 10:00 am          Homeostasis and intrinsic (local) cardiovascular control – Thomas Heldt

10:00 – 10:15 am        Break

10:15 – 11:30 am        Extrinsic (global) cardiovascular control – Roger Mark

11:30 am – 12:30 pm  Lunch

12:30 – 1:30 pm          Functional anatomy of the respiratory system – Thomas Heldt       

1:30 – 2:45 pm            Respiratory mechanics and mechanical ventilation – Roger Mark

2:45 – 3:00 pm            Break

3:00 – 4:30 pm            Clinical guest lecture

4:30 – 5:30 pm            Course reception

5:30 pm                       Adjourn

Day 5

8:00 – 8:30 am            Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45 am            Review of Day 4, goals for Day 5 – Thomas Heldt

8:45 – 10:15 am          Respiratory gas exchange – Thomas Heldt

10:15 – 10:30 am        Break

10:30 – 12:30 pm        Problem solving session 3 – Course staff      

12:30 – 1:30 pm          Lunch

1:30 – 2:00 pm            Review of problem set – George Verghese

2:00 – 3:30 pm            Clinical guest lecture

3:30 – 3:45 pm            Break

3:45 – 4:15 pm            Case presentation revisited – Roger Mark

4:15 – 4:45 pm            Course wrap-up – Thomas Heldt

Course Schedule: 


Class runs 9:00 am - 5:30 pm on Monday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and 8:30 am - 5:00 pm on Friday.



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please complete the Custom Programs request form for further details.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (60%) 60
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (20%) 20
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (20%) 20

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (65%) 65
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (15%) 15
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (20%) 20

Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (15%)


Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (30%) 30
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (50%) 50
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (20%) 20