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Lecture 3: Circulation – Physiology of heart

Physiology of Heart

The heart functions as a pump and acts as a double pump in the cardiovascular system to provide a continuous circulation of blood throughout the body. This circulation includes the systemic circulation and the pulmonary circulation Both circuits transport blood but they can also be seen in terms of the gases they carry. The pulmonary circulation collects oxygen from the lungs and delivers carbon dioxide for exhalation. The systemic circuit transports oxygen to the body and returns relatively de-oxygenated blood and carbon dioxide to the pulmonary circuit.

Blood flows through the heart in one direction, from the atria to the ventricles, and out through the pulmonary artery into the pulmonary circulation, and the arota into the systemic circulation. The pulmonary artery (also trunk) branches into the left and right pulmonary artery to supply each lung. Blood is prevented from flowing backwards by the tricuspid, bicuspid, aortic, and pulmonary valves.

The function of the right heart, is to collect de-oxygenated blood, in the right atrium, from the body via the superior vena cava, inferior vena cava and from the coronary sinus and pump it, through the tricuspid valve, via the right ventricle, through the semilunar pulmonary valve and into the pulmonary artery in the pulmonary circulation where carbon dioxide can be exchanged for oxygen in the lungs. This happens through the passive process of diffusion.

In the left heart oxygenated blood is returned to the left atrium via the pulmonary vein. It is then pumped into the left ventricle through the bicuspid valve and into the aorta for systemic circulation. Eventually in the systemic capillaries exchange with the tissue fluid and cells of the body occurs; oxygen and nutrients are supplied to the cells for their metabolism and exchanged for carbon dioxide and waste products In this case, oxygen and nutrients exit the systemic capillaries to be used by the cells in their metabolic processes, and carbon dioxide and waste products will enter the blood.

The ventricles are stronger and thicker than the atria, and the muscle wall surrounding the left ventricle is thicker than the wall surrounding the right ventricle due to the higher force needed to pump the blood through the systemic circulation. Atria facilitate circulation primarily by allowing uninterrupted venous flow to the heart, preventing the inertia of interrupted venous flow that would otherwise occur at each ventricular systole.

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