Dr Robert Stephenson BSc, PhD

Dr Robert Stephenson

Institute of Clinical Sciences
Senior Lecturer

Contact details

Institute of Clinical Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Stephenson is a Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Birmingham’s Medical School. His principal research interests lie in the field of functional cardiac anatomy. Exploiting national and international collaborations, including Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, he uses multi-scale imaging techniques to investigate the detailed morphology and function of the working myocardium, and the cardiac conduction system, in healthy, failing, and congenitally malformed hearts.


Senior Lecturer in Anatomy

  • PhD in Cardiovascular Sciences, The University of Liverpool, 2014
  • First Class BSc (Hons) in Anatomy and Human Biology, The University of Liverpool, 2009


Dr Stephenson graduated with a first class honours degree in Anatomy and Human Biology from The University of Liverpool in 2009. Later that year he received the Cardiac Surgery Research Award from Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, funding his PhD and subsequent Post-Doctoral position.

In 2016, Dr Stephenson was appointed Lecturer in Medical Sciences at The University of Central Lancashire. Then in 2017, he was awarded a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The fellowship took place at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and using novel imaging techniques, aimed to investigate the potential diagnostic link between regional micro-structural and metabolic remodelling in heart disease. During this time, together with an international research team, he developed an imaging technique allowing for the first 3-dimensional visualisations of the cardiac conduction system in healthy and congenitally malformed human hearts. He also performs research into ‘how the heart beats’, and has a keen interest in how the contractile cells of the heart are arranged and subsequently remodelled in disease.

Dr Stephenson was appointed Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Birmingham in 2019, and currently holds honorary positions at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.



Patients with congenital heart disease regularly require invasive interventions. Although mortality rates have fallen, arrhythmias and conduction disturbances are frequently observed, and cardiac conduction system injury is a leading cause. Congenital heart disease is associated with lifelong sequelae and repeated interventions. Focus is now, therefore, shifting towards reducing patient morbidity. To achieve this, we must strive to develop optimal and safe surgical strategies. We cannot visualise the cardiac conduction system in living patients. Surgeons, therefore currently depend on traditional 2D histological depictions. To truly know how the conduction system is displaced or modified, we must visualise it in 3D. Utilising hearts archived in UK hospitals, and using state-of-the-art non-destructive 3D imaging techniques, we are working to produce a virtual archive of congenitally malformed hearts. The data will show, for the first time at near cellular resolution, the 3D arrangement of the conduction system in intact hearts. This archive will provide invaluable information to surgeons on the precise location and variation of the conduction system, helping them to avoid damaging these specialised cells and make surgery safer.

Current projects

  • The Virtual Archive of the Congenitally Malformed Heart
  • How does the Heart Beat?
  • 3D Printed Hearts for surgical teaching, practice and planning.

 View Roberts ResearchGate Profile.


Journal Articles 

  • Stephenson RS, Jones CB, Guerrero R, Zhao J, Anderson RH, Jarvis JC (2018). High-Resolution Contrast-Enhanced Micro-computed Tomography to Identify the Cardiac Conduction System in Congenitally Malformed Hearts; Valuable Insight From a Hospital Archive. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging 11, 11.
  • Stephenson RS, Rowley-Nobel J, Jones C, Guerrero R, Lowe T, Zhao J, Zhang H, Jarvis JC (2018). Morphological substrates for atrial arrhythmogenesis in a heart with atrioventricular septal defect. Frontiers in Physiololgy 9, 1071.
  • Anderson RH, Agger P, Stephenson RS. The incorrect notion of the `unique myocardial band'. European Journal of Cardio-Thorac Surgery 2018;54:612.
  • Stephenson RS, Agger P, Omann C, Sanchez-Quintana D, Jarvis JC, Anderson RH (2018). Resolving the True Ventricular Mural Architecture. Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease 5, 2, 34.
  • Stephenson RS,  Atkinson A, Kottas P, Perde F, Jafarzadeh F, Bateman M, Iaizzo PA, Zhao J, Zhang H, Anderson RH, Jarvis JC, Dobrzynski H (2017). High resolution 3-Dimensional imaging of the human cardiac conduction system from microanatomy to mathematical modelling. Nature Scientific Reports 7, 1, 7188.
  • Lunkenheimer PP, Niederer P, Stephenson RS, Redmann K, Batista RV, Smerup M, Anderson RH. (2017). What is the clinical significance of ventricular mural antagonism? European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery 53, 4, 714-723.
  • MacIver DH, Stephenson RS, Jensen B, Agger P, Sánchez-Quintana D, Jarvis JC, Partridge JB, Anderson RH (2017). The end of the unique myocardial band: Part I. Anatomical considerations. European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery 53,1, 112-119.
  • MacIver DH, Partridge JB, Agger P, Stephenson RS, Boukens BJD, Omann C, Jarvis JC, Zhang H (2017). The end of the unique myocardial band: Part II. Clinical and functional considerations. European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery 53,1, 120-128.
  • Agger P, Stephenson RS, Dobrzynski H, Atkinson A, Iaizzo PA, Anderson RH, Jarvis JC Allan SL, Partridge JP, Zhao J, Zhang H, MacIver DH (2016). Insights from echocardiography, magnetic resonance imaging, and microcomputed tomography relative to the mid-myocardial left ventricular echogenic zone. Echocardiography 2016; 1–11.
  • Stephenson RS, Jarvis JC, Agger P, Lunkenheimer P, Smerup M, Niederer P, Anderson RH (2016). The architecture of skeletal compared to cardiac musculature; Myocyte orientation, lamellar unit morphology and the helical ventricular myocardial band. Journal of Clinical Anatomy 2016, 29,3.
  • Anderson RH, Lunkenheimer PP, Jarvis JC, Stephenson RS, MacIver DH, Agger P (2016). Assessment of the Helical Ventricular Myocardial Band Using Standard Echocardiography. Echocardiography 32,2,310-318.
  • Nikolaidou T, Cai X, Stephenson RS, Yanni J, Atkinson A, Jones C, Sarder R, Corno AF, Dobrzynski H, Wither PJ, Jarvis JC, Hart G, Boyett MR (2015). Congestive Heart Failure Leads to Prolongation of the PR Interval and Atrioventricular Junction Enlargement and Ion Channel Remodelling in the Rabbit. PLoS ONE 10,10, e0141452.
  • Kharche S, Castro S, Thomas B, Colman M, Jarvis JC, Smaill BH, Zhang H, Stephenson RS, Zhao J (2014). Role of Fiber Orientation in Atrial Arrhythmogenesis. Computing in Cardiology conference, 1041-1044.
  • Kharche S, Zhao J, Castro S, Stephenson RS, Jarvis JC, Smaill BH, Zhang H (2014).  Activation regulation by fiber orientation in the rabbit atria. Physiology 2014, London, UK, Proceedings in Physiological Society 31.
  • Ni H, Castro SJ, Stephenson RS, Jarvis JC, Lowe T, Hart G, Boyett MR, Zhang H. (2013). Extracting Myofibre Orientation from Micro-CT Images: An Optimisation Study. Computing in Cardiology, 40:823-826.     
  • Jarvis JC, Stephenson RS (2013) Studying the microanatomy of the heart in 3-dimensions: a practical update. Frontiers in Paediatric Cardiology, 10.3389/fped.2013.000
  • Zhao J, Stephenson RS, Sands GB, et al. (2013) Atrial Fibrosis and Atrial Fibrillation: A Computer Simulation in the Posterior Left Atrium. FIMH. 400–408.
  • Stephenson RS, Boyett MR, Hart G, et al. (2012) Contrast Enhanced Micro-Compute Tomography Resolves the 3-Dimensional Morphology of the Cardiac Conduction System in Mammalian Hearts. PLoS ONE, 7, e35299.
  • Aslanidi O, Nikolaidou T, Zhao J, Smaill BH, Gilbert SH, Holden AV, Lowe T, Withers PJ, Stephenson RS, et al. (2012) Application of Micro-Computed Tomography with Iodine Staining to Cardiac Imaging, Segmentation and Computational Model Development. Medical Imaging, IEEE Transactions on medical imaging, 32(1):8-17.
  • Jeffery NS, Stephenson RS, Gallagher JA, Jarvis JC, Cox PG (2011) Micro-computed tomography with iodine staining resolves the arrangement of muscle fibres. Journal of Biomechanics, 44, 189-192.


  • Agger P, Stephenson RS, Hasenkam JM (2017). A Practical Guide to Biomedical Research: for the Aspiring Scientist. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-319-63582-8

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