Makomed's Weblog

Blood Vessels Flow through the Heart

Posted on: April 30, 2005


One of the greatest cardiac tools we have in the modern world consists of the ECG, or the Electrocardiogram. It provides the gift of analyzing and monitoring the beats, and therefore the electrical activity, of the heart without need of invasive procedures.

A thorough knowledge of cardiac anatomy provides keen insight into the development of this technology. First, we familiarize ourselves with the chambers of the heart.

New York’s Pennsylvania Station is one of the largest hubs connecting many of the subway’s comings and goings. Millions of passengers go through and come out of this grand arena.

Now imagine that the human heart is Penn Station and the millions of passengers are the numerous blood cells that come and go with each pump. The heart’s two top levels are the Atrium, one on each side. It also has two bottom decks, known as the left and right Ventriculae.

So now you have two sides of the heart. The left side houses the entrance to the station: the right atrium. It accepts blood vessels tired and drained of oxygen. The whole left side is kind of like a waiting area. They then buy a ticket and are accepted as they go through a turnstile, known as the Tricuspid valve. Heart valves like the tricuspid open up for incoming blood vessels but it immediately closes up to prevent any blood cells from coming the other way, ensuring smooth flow into the right ventricular chamber, located underground.

By this time, the blood cells are still tired and hungry. They proceed through the right ventricular chamber and up through the pulmonary arteries, which splits to the left and right lungs. They look forward to the lungs because that’s where the suburbs are. They get home and regenerate with more oxygen, ready to take on their duties again, the next day.

Once filled up, it’s time to proceed to the other side of the Heart Station. This station goes downtown, into the body. Blood cell passengers have to go back into the heart, but they must take the downtown train going south, so instead they proceed to the pulmonary veins to get back in. NOT the pulmonary arteries, because that’s where they came from, last night.

The whole left side of the heart is ready for boarding and the process is repeated once again, albeit it’s in a different direction. Once fare is paid and blood cell passengers go through the bicuspid valve, it shuts and they wait to board the aorta from the left ventricular chamber. Once the aorta becomes available, they are sped through the tunnels of the body to begin a new cycle.

To recap: “Deoxygenated blood from the body returns to the right atrium and then flows to the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps blood into the lungs where it’s oxygenated. The blood then returns to the left atrium and into to the left ventricle. Oxygenated blood is pumped to the aorta and the body by the left ventricle.”

We leave the blood cells now to investigate the power that drives the heart’s subway system.


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