heart, terminology

Some handy heart terms defined:

ventricles - the main pumping chambers of the heart. These are thick walled and very muscular; they are the high pressure pumps. Blood is received from the lungs and body through the atria and then pumped forcibly out to the body and lungs.

atrium (AY-tree-um) plural atria (AY-tree-ah) - the low pressure priming pumps of the heart. They recieve blood back from the lungs and the body and pump it into the ventricles. The atria are low pressure pumps, with thin walls. The pacemaker of the heart is found in the atria.

aorta (ay-OR-tah) - main artery from the left side of the heart to the body

pulmonary artery - main artery from the right side of the heart to the lungs

vena cava (VEE-nah CAY-vah) - main return vein from the body to the heart; divided into

superior vena cava - the part that lies above the heart and receives blood from the head and upper body region

inferior vena cava - the part that lies below the heart and receives blood back from the liver, intestines, kidneys, pelvic organs and lower body region

ductus arteriosus - a normal fetal connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery that should normally close shortly after birth under the influence of increased oxygen in the bloodstream as soon as air breathing begins

stenosis - narrowing or partial blockage of a valve of the heart

dilate - enlarge

systole - (SIS-toe-lee) the contraction or pumping phase of the heart cycle (adj. systolic)

diastole - (die-ASS-toe-lee) the relaxation or filling phase of the heart cycle (adj. diastolic)

coarctation - congenital narrowing or obliteration of the channel of an artery, usually the aorta

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