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The Pulmonary and Systemic Circuits



The Pulmonary Circuits

The heart is responsible for pumping the blood to every cell in the body. It is also responsible for pumping blood to the lungs, where the blood gives up carbon dioxide and takes on oxygen. The heart is able to pump blood to both regions efficiently because there are really two separate circulatory circuits with the heart as the common link. Some authors even refer to the heart as two separate hearts--a right heart in the pulmonary circuit and left heart in the systemic circuit. In the pulmonary circuit, blood leaves the heart through the pulmonary arteries, goes to the lungs, and returns to the heart through the pulmonary veins.

The Systemic Circuits

In the systemic circuit, blood leaves the heart through the aorta, goes to all the organs of the body through the systemic arteries, and then returns to the heart through the systemic veins. Thus there are two circuits. Arteries always carry blood away from the heart and veins always carry blood toward the heart. Most of the time, arteries carry oxygenated blood and veins carry deoxygenated blood. There are exceptions. The pulmonary arteries leaving the right ventricle for the lungs carry deoxygenated blood and the pulmonary veins carry oxygenated blood. If you are confused as to which way the blood flows through the heart, try this saying "When it leaves the right, it comes right back, but when it leaves the left, it's left." The blood does not have to travel as far when going from the heart to the lungs as it does from the heart to the toes. It makes sense that the heart would be larger on one side than on the other. When you look at a heart, you see that the right side of the heart is distinctly smaller than the left side, and the left ventricle is the largest of the four chambers.

Blood Supply to the Heart

While you might think the heart would have no problem getting enough oxygen-rich blood, the heart is no different from any other organ. It must have its own source of oxygenated blood. The heart is supplied by its own set of blood vessels. These are the coronary arteries. There are two main ones with two major branches each. They arise from the aorta right after it leaves the heart. The coronary arteries eventually branch into capillary beds that course throughout the heart walls and supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood. The coronary veins return blood from the heart muscle, but instead of emptying into another larger vein, they empty directly into the right atrium.

Next page > The Heart and the Circulatory System > William Harvey > Types of Circulatory Systems > Anatomy of the Heart > The Pulmonary and Systemic Circuits > The Blood Vessels > Circulatory Problems > Modern Cardiovascular Medicine



Source: Carolina Biological Supply /Access Excellence
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