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This software is described in

T Heldt, R Mukkamala, GB Moody, and RG Mark. CVSim: An Open-Source Cardiovascular Simulator for Teaching and Research. Open Pacing, Electrophysiol & Ther J 3:45-54 (2010).

Please cite this publication when referencing this software, and also include the standard citation for PhysioNet:

Goldberger AL, Amaral LAN, Glass L, Hausdorff JM, Ivanov PCh, Mark RG, Mietus JE, Moody GB, Peng C-K, Stanley HE. PhysioBank, PhysioToolkit, and PhysioNet: Components of a New Research Resource for Complex Physiologic Signals. Circulation 101(23):e215-e220 [Circulation Electronic Pages;]; 2000 (June 13).

If you teach using CVSim, please tell us about your course.

The CVSim software was developed between 1983 and 2007, and four versions of it are available from PhysioNet:

  • XCVSim (1991-1998), a 6-compartment model with an X11 GUI
  • RCVSim (2000-2003), a 6-compartment model with a scriptable command-line interface
  • CVSim-6 (2002-2007), a 6-compartment model with a Java GUI (described below)
  • CVSim-21 (2002-2007), a 21-compartment model with an enhanced Java GUI (also described below)

Issues regarding the code can be reported in the project's github repository.

CVSim: a cardiovascular simulator

CVSim is a lumped-parameter model of the human cardiovascular system that has been developed and used for research and for teaching quantitative physiology courses at MIT and Harvard Medical School since 1984. The versions presented here have a graphical user interface implemented in Java, with computational components in C.

Software and Usage

Java is required to run CVSim. To use one of the compiled (ready to use) distributions:

  1. Download and install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) version 1.8. Note that the JDK contains the JRE and other java delopment tools.
  2. Download and save the compiled CVSim archive file for your system: Linux, OSX, Windows.
  3. Extract (unzip) the contents of the downloaded archive file.
  4. Run the program. The script to be executed is: run-cvsim.
    • Windows users can just double click the run-cvsim.bat file.
    • Alternatively, users can run the code through a terminal:
      • Open a terminal: can be found under the name terminal in Ubuntu-Linux and OSX, and cmd in Windows.
      • Navigate to the extracted content directory using the cd command.
      • Type: ./run-cvsim in Linux/OSX, or run-cvsim in Windows.
  5. Choose either the 6 or 21 compartment model (see below).


Source Code

The source files are available from the source tree, and from the gzip-compressed tar archive. CVSim has been successfully compiled using Java 1.6, 1.7, and 1.8 on 32 and 64 bit Linux, OSX, and Windows. To compile the source for your platform, follow the README.txt instructions in the devel subdirectory. Using the Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.8 is recommended.

Compiled Code

Compiled versions using Java 1.8 on 64-bit Ubuntu-Linux 16.04, OSX 10.11, and Windows 10, are also provided.

Issues regarding the code can be reported in the project's github repository.


The source code and compiled distributions contain content for both 6 and 21 compartment models of CVSim.

The older implementations, RCVSim and XCVSim, are available in their respective Physiotools pages.

Using CVSim

The notes below apply to both the educational and the research versions of CVSim.

CVSim Window Components

The CVSim window is divided into four sections ("panes") and a toolbar:

These components are briefly described here, and demonstrated in short Flash animations (click on the links below to see them).

Simulation Control Toolbar

The Simulation Control Toolbar includes six controls to stop and start the simulation and turn the control systems on and off:

Start the simulation
Stop the simulation
Turn on the arterial baroreflex control system
Turn off the arterial baroreflex control system
Turn on the cardiopulmonary reflex control system
Turn off the cardiopulmonary reflex control system

Simulation Parameters Pane

The Simulation Parameters Pane displays the simulation variables and outputs. (The Simulation Outputs Pane, which is located on a separate tab behind the Simulation Parameters Pane, is not functional in the current version of CVSim. In a future version, it will be used to select outputs to be recorded in a log file.)

Graphics Pane

The Graphics Pane displays anatomical and circuit representations of the simulation model.

Click and drag the vertical bar between the Simulation Parameters and Graphics panes to resize them.

Strip Chart and Plot Panes

The Strip Chart behaves like a chart recorder, plotting simulation outputs versus time and scrolling from right to left. The Plot Pane behaves like a flatbed XY plotter, plotting simulation outputs versus one another. Watch the Strip Chart and Plot demo.

Strip Chart and Plot panes can be undocked using the arrow icon at the upper right corner of the pane. Once undocked, they can be moved and resized, and it is possible to view more than one of each simultaneously. (Select New Strip Chart or New Plot from the main window's Plot menu to create additional strip charts or plots.)


This implementation of CVSim is the work of Catherine Dunn and Thomas Heldt, with contributions from Ali Saeed and Brandon Pierquet.

Previous implementations were written by Bob Sah (1983), George Moody (1985), Tim Davis (1989), Rama Mukkamala (2001), Thomas Heldt (2002), and by Eun Bo Shim and his students (2003). The circulatory model used in CVSim was created by Roger Mark, based on an analog model of JG Defares and colleagues [2]. The CVSim model was elaborated by Thomas Heldt, Eun Bo Shim, Roger Kamm, and Roger Mark [3].

Development of CVSim was supported in part through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Cooperative Agreement NCC 9-58 with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (grants CA00106, CA00205, and CA00403).


[1] T Heldt, R Mukkamala, GB Moody, and RG Mark. CVSim: An Open-Source Cardiovascular Simulator for Teaching and Research. Open Pacing, Electrophysiol & Ther J 3:45-54 (2010).

[2] JG Defares, JJ Osborne, and HH Hara. Theoretical synthesis of the cardiovascular system. Study I: The controlled system. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Neerl 12:189-265 (1963).

[3] T Heldt, EB Shim, RD Kamm, and RG Mark. Computational modeling of cardiovascular response to orthostatic stress. J Appl Physiol 92(3):1239-1254 (2002 March 1).

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Updated Monday, 5 February 2018 at 11:18 EST

PhysioNet is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) under NIH grant number 2R01GM104987-09.