By: Darwin Wan, MS2

Given the current cardiovascular disease epidemic, the heart is often at the centre of attention for many patients. With first year heart anatomy being a distant memory for many health professionals and difficult to explain to patients, there is benefit to having a quick reference app. Heart Illustrated aims to do just that–provide an overview of basic heart anatomy in an accessible and easy-to-use format, with helpful illustrations.

The creators of the app certainly let their passion shine through in this app. Heart anatomy is covered quite decently, including circulation, chambers, valves and the conduction system. Every illustration is meticulously drawn from scratch rather than ripped from other texts.

The drawings are all nicely labelled with accompanying explanations of structures. Having learned heart anatomy in my medical curriculum, I was able to easily refresh my knowledge by looking at the illustrations and quickly skimming the text to glean key concepts.

More importantly, the application is a solid tool to use with patients when showing them various cardiac pathologies, and it’s easy for patients with iOS4 devices to download — it’s free. The “free” part is key — and helps make up for some of the user interface issues with the application.

The app is organized well enough that you can quickly get to the section you want with just a couple of finger taps, making it ideal for quick referencing.

Despite being an overall good app, it does lack an “oomph” factor. The app is essentially a reference book condensed into a mobile application. I would’ve liked it if the app could have taken advantage of the iPhone’s dynamic user interface in more novel ways. Perhaps tapping on a keyword could result in the corresponding anatomy being highlighted and vice versa. One difficulty with traditional anatomy textbooks is finding structures on diagrams, and I definitely would be excited by an app that implements this.

Where Heart Illustrated succeeds in providing a quick reference with excellent illustrations, it falls a bit short in teaching.  Although, the explanations are concise and could potentially be used for patient education. This brevity however, also renders it difficult for users to learn new anatomical concepts with which they were previously unacquainted. As illustrated below, it is difficult for a leaner to know exactly what and where the pectinate muscles and left atrial appendage are solely from the app’s explanation and diagram.

And lastly, I did find a small glitch that did create a bit of an annoyance. Tapping some textboxes may cause the keyboard to pop up and obstruct one’s view. The only way I found to get rid of it was to go back a page and forward again. Even more odd was the fact that I could type whatever I wanted into the text, but there is no way to save the inputted text (one cannot type notes into the app). I point this out not to nitpick, but in the hopes that this issue will be addressed in a future update.

Overall, Heart Illustrated is a good app featuring some new meticulously hand drawn images that make a good quick reference for heart anatomy. Given that it is being offered free of charge, download if you would like a good heart anatomy reference and tool book to potentially use with patients. If you’re a practicing cardiologist or hoping to learn heart anatomy from scratch, this isn’t the application for you.


* Good organization
* Clear and beautiful illustrations
* Designed for quick reference


* Doesn’t present anatomy in a novel way nor take full advantage of the touch interface
* Explanations are good for reference and refreshing, but not for learning from scratch
* Small keyboard glitch
* Inability to zoom into pictures

Pricing: Free


Heart Illustrated brings a good user-friendly heart anatomy reference to your iOS device.  It’s not for advanced users, but does have potential to be used for patient education when explaining cardiac pathologies.

Iltifat Husain contributed to this post.

Darwin Wan, B.Sc(Kin) is a second year medical student at the University of Alberta, and currently servies as the Information Technology Officer for the student body. Scores for programs in the above screenshots are for demonstration purposes only.