The Atrium – Storage Chamber and Booster Pump

In an earlier article, I’ve discussed the four heart chambers – the two upper chambers called atria, and the two lower ones called ventricles.

Let’s talk a little more about the atria.

The atria [singular : atrium] are thin walled upper chambers of the heart. There are two atria, one on the right and the other on the left.

The right atrium is located along the right border of the heart. The two great veins of the body – called the superior and inferior vena cava [SVC and IVC] – drain impure blood from the upper and lower halves of the body respectively. These two great veins ultimately empty into the right atrium.

From here, blood flows into the right ventricle across the tricuspid valve and thence into the lungs to be purified. The right atrium thus primarily functions as a storage chamber for “impure” venous blood en route to the lungs. 

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What is Open Heart Surgery?

Over the years, many have asked me this question – “What exactly is OPEN HEART surgery ?”.

“Hey, that’s easy !”, you say. “It’s an operation which is done after opening the heart, right ?”


But it’s not easy!

Let me try and explain.

I’ve told you earlier about how the heart pumps “pure” blood containing nutrients and oxygen to the entire body. This blood flow is needed for life. If the heart stops, and blood flow stops, life is not possible.

That then is the challenge – to open the heart and operate inside it. For this it is necessary to stop the heart!

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CHD Support Groups

CHD Info An informative resource on Congenital Heart Defects with detailed articles on each form of CHD.  Congenital Heart Disease Information and Resources  CHIN contains a tremendous amount of information on resources concerning congenital heart disease Adult Congenital Heart Disease Forum Adult Congenital Heart Disease Forum is a site devoted to birth defects of the heart in … Read more

What Causes Congenital Heart Defects?

Despite much research, in the majority of cases, Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) occur without any known cause. This is one reason the incidence has remained fairly constant at 7 to 8 cases per 1000 live births over decades, while other forms of heart disease have been declining in frequency.

We know the causes of some forms of congenital heart defects (CHD).

Environmental Insults

During pregnancy, some events are known to be associated with an increased risk for CHD.

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The Ventricles – “Power Pumpers”

In another article you’ll learn about the upper chambers of the heart called the Atria. This one will focus on the lower chambers of the heart – called the Ventricles.

The ventricles are the powerful pumping chambers of the heart. Located below the atria, there are two ventricles, right and left. Together, by their actions, these chambers maintain the circulation of blood to every single organ system of the body. They thus maintain LIFE itself !

The ventricles are hollow structures with a capacity of about 120 ml. in the adult. The left ventricle is ellipsoidal in shape while the right is a little more irregular, seeming to be wrapped around the left ventricle.

The ventricle walls are made up of a special kind of muscle called “Cardiac Muscle“. In many ways, this muscle is very much like the muscles in your arms that help you lift things, or in your legs that help you stand, walk and run …. with one major difference.

Heart muscle does not tire.

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Atrial Septum and Ventricular Septum – Dividers Inside Your Heart

In earlier articles, you have read about the upper and lower chambers of the heart – the atria and the ventricles.

You have also seen that the circulation is divided into two separate streams, one of which has blood returning from other organs back to the heart for oxygenation, and the other from the heart distributing pure blood back to the body. It is essential that the heart chambers are separated from each other by walls to prevent mixing of these two streams of blood.

This article is about the walls that partition the two sides – the right and left – of these chambers – the inter-atrial septum and inter-ventricular septum.

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Atrio-Ventricular Valves – AV Valves

The Atrio-Ventricular valves (or A-V valves) are exactly what their name implies. They are valves located between the atria and ventricles.

Since there are two atria and two ventricles, it follows naturally that there must be two A-V valves. The one on the right is called the Tricuspid Valve and the one on the left is called the Mitral Valve.

Why should we have A-V valves ?

In earlier articles, we have seen how the heart contracts forcefully and ejects blood from its lower chambers called the ventricles. This blood leaves the heart and flows to the other organs of the body.

We have also seen that the blood enters the ventricles from the upper chambers of the heart called the atria. Now, what then keeps the blood flowing in a forward direction into the arteries to the other organs, rather than backwards into the atria?

You’ve got it right – the A-V Valves!

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Coronary Arteries – Lifeline of the Heart

Before we talk about coronary artery disease and its treatment, it is necessary to understand what exactly the human coronary artery system is made up of. I will briefly explain the coronary arterial tree in man, and later we will see what disease of these arteries can cause.

Why do we need coronary arteries ?

As we have discussed earlier, the heart is a muscular pump that contracts to force blood to flow through arteries to each part of the body, providing nutrients and oxygen for their normal function. To perform such work, the heart muscle itself requires energy.

How is this energy provided? Nature has designed a special carrier system to supply oxygen and nutrient-rich blood directly to the heart muscle. This system is the coronary arteries.

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