The Right Ventricle: A Heart’s Best Friend?
There are many different theories about the right ventricle. Some say it is a heart’s best friend; others believe that it helps maintain proper blood pressure and circulatory system function; still others think that it plays no role whatsoever in the human body. However, there is one thing that everyone agrees upon – the right ventricle is vital to life!
In fact, if not for the right ventricle, humans would die within minutes due to lack of blood flow. Without the right ventricle, the heart cannot pump enough blood throughout your body to keep you alive. This is why it is so important that you have a healthy amount of blood flowing through your body every single day. If it weren’t for the right ventricle pumping your blood around, then you wouldn’t even be able to breathe properly!
As mentioned above, the right ventricle is vital to life. It keeps your heart beating at its optimum rate which is necessary for keeping your organs functioning normally. Your lungs need air to work properly. Without adequate circulation, these organs will begin shutting down and eventually stop working altogether. Without sufficient blood flow throughout your body, you won’t be able to do anything except lay there in agony waiting for death!
The right ventricle has a tough job. It has to pump enough blood to your vital organs to keep them functioning, but it also needs to maintain adequate pressure in order for the blood to reach the smaller capillaries and veins where oxygen and nutrients are exchanged. If the right ventricle didn’t regulate pressure properly, then your blood pressure would be so high that it could blow out your capillaries. For this reason, the right ventricle is necessary for life!
Just like the left ventricle, the right ventricle has a thick muscular wall. It is shaped like a cone and has an opening on the bottom end which connects to the pulmonary artery. This artery carries de-oxygenated blood away from your heart, to the lungs where it can get oxygen, then back to your heart where the oxygenated blood is pumped into your aorta for distribution to your body.
The right ventricle also has an opening on its top end, which is called the “tricuspid valve”. This enables blood to flow from the ventricle into the large artery known as the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery then transports the blood through small arteries and arterioles to reach your lungs where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen during respiration.
The right ventricle is part of a closed system. This means that blood is not lost or gained once it gets into the ventricle. Every drop of blood that goes in must come out. When oxygen rich blood passes through the lungs, it becomes oxygenated and full of life giving properties. Keeping a balance between the amount of oxygen being supplied to the body and the amount being used up by the body is essential for life!
The right atrium receives oxygenated blood and pumps it to the right ventricle. The tricuspid valve ensures that the blood goes in the right ventricle and not back into the atrium. When the right ventricle contracts, it pumps the blood through the pulmonary artery into the lungs where it gets oxygen. The oxygen in the blood is then exchanged for carbon dioxide. When the oxygenated blood flows back through the lungs, it is pumped by small arteries into arterioles, and then tiny capillaries which directly connect to tiny air sacs called alveoli.
The veins in the body are much smaller than the arteries, but they have one major responsibility. They must carry oxygenated blood to the heart. Blood is transported through the body by two different methods. In the systemic circuit, oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart to the lungs, then back to the heart and then sent out to the body. In the pulmonary circuit, oxygenated blood flows directly from the heart to the lungs, then back to the heart, and then out to the body.
Both of these circuits begin and end at the heart. The systemic circuit includes the veins and arteries in the body, while the pulmonary circuit only uses the pulmonary artery and vein.
When you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen. The more you exercise, the more oxygen is needed. The veins have a tough job of bringing that oxygen to the muscles that are working hard! The smooth muscle lining of your veins has “relaxing” and “contracting” zones. When you are at rest, the veins in your body are relaxed.
This means the opening of the veins are narrow. Under normal conditions, less blood is urged to flow, so the veins do not have to work too hard to push the blood through.
When the muscles need more oxygen, the neural and hormonal signals cause the veins to contract. This means that the opening of the veins get wider. More blood can then flow through the veins, delivering more oxygen to the muscles!
3. The Blood Vessels
The blood vessels in your body are separated into two systems: the systemic and the pulmonary. The lungs have their own system separate from the rest of the body.
a. The Systemic Circulatory System
This is the system that sends oxygenated blood to the body and picks up de-oxygenated blood from the body to return to the heart. It is called the systemic because it sends blood throughout the body, or system.
The heart is the pump of the blood system. It is a muscular organ that works to push blood throughout the entire body. The heart can be divided into four parts: the right and left auricles and the right and left ventricles. The auricles collect de-oxygenated blood. The ventricles then pump oxygenated blood through the body.
This means that blood enters the heart through the auricles and exits through the ventricles. The auricles are muscular sacs that collect blood and then send it through the atrioventricular (tricuspid and bicuspid) valves into the ventricles. The tricuspid and bicuspid valves ensure that the blood goes into the ventricles and not back into the atria. There are also peripheral valves in the veins that stop the backflow of blood.
The left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood to the organs of the body and head via the aorta, the largest artery in the body. The aorta branches off into smaller arteries that supply oxygen to all parts of the body. Arteries are muscular and have thicker walls than veins. This makes them better suited for pushing blood to the parts of the body that need it most.
The right ventricle pumps oxygenated blood to the lungs via the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery splits into smaller arteries and capillaries that supply the lungs with oxygen. Capillaries are the tiniest vessels in the body. They are so small that only one red blood cell can squeeze through at a time. This provides a very large surface area for gas exchange to occur in the lungs.
All of the valves in the heart ensure that the right amount of blood is going to the right place in your heart. If there were no valves, the unwatched flow of blood would simply go straight back to the atria. This would not send any blood to the body or head. The tricuspid and bicuspid valves ensure that all blood is sent to the ventricles. The semilunar valves make sure that all blood is sent in the right direction through the vessels of the body.
Valves also prevent the backflow of blood. Backflow, or reflux, is when blood travels in the wrong direction.
The sinoatrial node, also called the pacemaker, is an area of cells that initiates the contraction of the heart. It is located in the upper right chamber of the heart, called the right atrium. The sinoatrial node generates electrical signals that cause the muscle of the heart to contract. These signals travel down the cardiac nerves into the heart and cause the heart to beat. The rate of these signals is about 60-100 beats per minute, depending on certain factors.
Arteries are the large blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. They have three layers: intima, media, and adventitia. The intima is the innermost layer and is composed of endothelial cells, which form the lining of all blood vessels. The media, or muscularis, layer contains smooth muscle fibers and elastic fibers to help the artery expand and contract. The adventitia is the outermost layer and is a connective tissue that binds everything together.
Arteries branch off into smaller and smaller blood vessels called arterioles, then move into capillaries. Capillaries are the tiniest of blood vessels, and they help exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the blood and the body’s tissues. They consist of endothelial cells and a thin layer of connective tissue around them. From the capillaries, oxygen is sent back into the blood and waste products are sent to the liver for removal.
Capillaries are small and thin enough to allow for exchange of gases between the blood and the body’s tissues. It is here that oxygen passes from the blood into the body’s cells and waste products pass from the cells into the blood.
Sources & references used in this article:
The right ventricle: anatomy, physiology, and clinical importance by LJ Dell’Italia – Current problems in cardiology, 1991 – Elsevier
Right ventricular function in cardiovascular disease, part I: anatomy, physiology, aging, and functional assessment of the right ventricle by F Haddad, SA Hunt, DN Rosenthal, DJ Murphy – Circulation, 2008 – Am Heart Assoc
The right ventricle in pulmonary hypertension by KM Chin, NHS Kim, LJ Rubin – Coronary artery disease, 2005 – journals.lww.com
Echocardiographic measurement of the normal adult right ventricle. by R Foale, P Nihoyannopoulos, W McKenna… – Heart, 1986 – heart.bmj.com
Percutaneous replacement of pulmonary valve in a right-ventricle to pulmonary-artery prosthetic conduit with valve dysfunction by P Bonhoeffer, Y Boudjemline, Z Saliba, J Merckx… – The Lancet, 2000 – Elsevier
Performance of the right ventricle under stress: relation to right coronary flow by H Brooks, ES Kirk, PS Vokonas… – The Journal of …, 1971 – Am Soc Clin Investig
The right ventricle under pressure: cellular and molecular mechanisms of right-heart failure in pulmonary hypertension by HJ Bogaard, K Abe, AV Noordegraaf, NF Voelkel – Chest, 2009 – Elsevier