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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the location and position of the heart within the body cavity
  • Describe the internal and external anatomy of the heart
  • Identify the tissue layers of the heart
  • Relate the structure of the heart to its function as a pump
  • Compare systemic circulation to pulmonary circulation
  • Identify the veins and arteries of the coronary circulation system
  • Trace the pathway of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood thorough the chambers of the heart

The vital importance of the heart is obvious. If one assumes an average rate of contraction of 75 contractions per minute, a human heart would contract approximately 108,000 times in one day, more than 39 million times in one year, and nearly 3 billion times during a 75-year lifespan. Each of the major pumping chambers of the heart ejects approximately 70 mL blood per contraction in a resting adult. This would be equal to 5.25 liters of fluid per minute and approximately 14,000 liters per day. Over one year, that would equal 10,000,000 liters or 2.6 million gallons of blood sent through roughly 60,000 miles of vessels. In order to understand how that happens, it is necessary to understand the anatomy and physiology of the heart.

Location of the heart

The human heart is located within the thoracic cavity, medially between the lungs in the space known as the mediastinum. [link] shows the position of the heart within the thoracic cavity. Within the mediastinum, the heart is separated from the other mediastinal structures by a tough membrane known as the pericardium, or pericardial sac, and sits in its own space called the pericardial cavity    . The dorsal surface of the heart lies near the bodies of the vertebrae, and its anterior surface sits deep to the sternum and costal cartilages. The great veins, the superior and inferior venae cavae, and the great arteries, the aorta and pulmonary trunk, are attached to the superior surface of the heart, called the base. The base of the heart is located at the level of the third costal cartilage, as seen in [link] . The inferior tip of the heart, the apex, lies just to the left of the sternum between the junction of the fourth and fifth ribs near their articulation with the costal cartilages. The right side of the heart is deflected anteriorly, and the left side is deflected posteriorly. It is important to remember the position and orientation of the heart when placing a stethoscope on the chest of a patient and listening for heart sounds, and also when looking at images taken from a midsagittal perspective. The slight deviation of the apex to the left is reflected in a depression in the medial surface of the inferior lobe of the left lung, called the cardiac notch    .

Position of the heart in the thorax

This diagram shows the location of the heart in the thorax.
The heart is located within the thoracic cavity, medially between the lungs in the mediastinum. It is about the size of a fist, is broad at the top, and tapers toward the base.

Everyday connection


The position of the heart in the torso between the vertebrae and sternum (see [link] for the position of the heart within the thorax) allows for individuals to apply an emergency technique known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the heart of a patient should stop. By applying pressure with the flat portion of one hand on the sternum in the area between the line at T4 and T9 ( [link] ), it is possible to manually compress the blood within the heart enough to push some of the blood within it into the pulmonary and systemic circuits. This is particularly critical for the brain, as irreversible damage and death of neurons occur within minutes of loss of blood flow. Current standards call for compression of the chest at least 5 cm deep and at a rate of 100 compressions per minute, a rate equal to the beat in “Staying Alive,” recorded in 1977 by the Bee Gees. If you are unfamiliar with this song, a version is available on www.youtube.com. At this stage, the emphasis is on performing high-quality chest compressions, rather than providing artificial respiration. CPR is generally performed until the patient regains spontaneous contraction or is declared dead by an experienced healthcare professional.

When performed by untrained or overzealous individuals, CPR can result in broken ribs or a broken sternum, and can inflict additional severe damage on the patient. It is also possible, if the hands are placed too low on the sternum, to manually drive the xiphoid process into the liver, a consequence that may prove fatal for the patient. Proper training is essential. This proven life-sustaining technique is so valuable that virtually all medical personnel as well as concerned members of the public should be certified and routinely recertified in its application. CPR courses are offered at a variety of locations, including colleges, hospitals, the American Red Cross, and some commercial companies. They normally include practice of the compression technique on a mannequin.

Cpr technique

The top panel shows a schematic of a person performing CPR and demarcates the region in the chest where the compression must be performed. The bottom panel shows a photo of a person performing CPR on a dummy.
If the heart should stop, CPR can maintain the flow of blood until the heart resumes beating. By applying pressure to the sternum, the blood within the heart will be squeezed out of the heart and into the circulation. Proper positioning of the hands on the sternum to perform CPR would be between the lines at T4 and T9.

Questions & Answers

the diagram of the respiratory system
Praise Reply
Describe sinus of brain
name the 5 layers of skin
Monika Reply
stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, stratum corneum
those are the layers of epidermis,, then we have the dermis which has got two layers that is papillary dermis and reticular dermis.. beneath the dermis we have the hypodermis( subcutaneous layer) which is not considered as a layer of skin
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ivhil Reply
is the information or comment about something that one have done
may be you mean negative or positive feedback mechanism... in general, they mean body response its changes by hormones
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Asim Reply
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endocrine is a system through which the secretions of cell directly poured into blood.
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what is a stimuli
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environment factor that cause a cell to respond
name the two types of melanin
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deference between RNA and DNA
.DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The sugar portion of DNA is 2-Deoxyribose.RNA stands for Ribonucleic Acid.  The sugar portion of RNA is Ribose.2.The helix geometry of DNA is of B-Form (A or Z also present).The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form.3.DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting o
DNA consists of nucleotide but RNA consists of nucleoside DNA is double standard but RNA is single standard.In DNA at the nitrogen bases adinine,guanine,cytocin and thymine is present but in case of RNA instead of thymine uracil is present.
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what is a heart
walker Reply
A heart is an organ in the circulatory system that pumps blood throughout the systemic regions
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Anatomy is the study of internal and external structures and the relationship among body parts. (the study of structure).
what is the physiology of the heart
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asthma is a lungs related disorder in which there is difficulty in breathing due to some allergic factors, their is inflamation of alveoli of respiratory part of lungs.also decreases the surface area.
what is meaning of brain strock and its types?
the pathophysiology of asthma is complex and involves airway inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness pathogenesis of asthma
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what is malignant melanoma
Akon Reply
cancerous cells 🙄
yes benign is non-cancerous malignant is cancerous.
that's a simple way of explaining it however you're different processes like mitosis etc a person can be at risk for developing cancer etc
you can tell by an unusual growth of a mole, or change in size coloration with melanoma. which is abnormal growth of your squamous cells.
Types of wandering connective tissues
Hassan Reply
what are the meaning of skin
study of external structure of human body is known as anatomy
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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