Basic Heart Terminology

Basic Terminology of the Human Heart

The human heart is perhaps the most symbolic and intriguing of the organs in the human body. It has been studied to an astounding extent throughout history, yielding some daunting terminology. Many of the terms used to describe and identify components of the human heart are quite long and complex. Here we will cover the basic terminology of the heart, including the major veins and arteries that run to and from it. The terminology will be defined in terms of its function.

Terminology of the Heart

1. Anterior and Posterior Vena Cava

These two major veins carry deoxygenated blood from the upper and lower body to the right atrium.

2. Right Atrium

The right atrium accepts deoxygenated blood from the anterior and posterior vena cava, and the muscular wall of the atrium contracts, pumping the blood through the tricuspid valve.

3. Tricuspid Valve

The tricuspid valve prevents the backward flow of blood into the right atrium. This valve is so named as it has three sets of tendons that prevent it from pulling inside-out while pumping. Blood flows through this valve into the right ventricle.

4. Right Ventricle

The deoxygenated blood flows from the tricuspid valve into this larger sac. The muscles of this sac contract, pumping the blood through the pulmonary semi-lunar valve into the pulmonary arteries.

5. Semi-Lunar Valve

The semi-lunar valve is so named as its shape resembles that of a half moon. It prevents the backward flow of blood from the pulmonary artery into the right ventricle.

6. Pulmonary Artery

This artery, which eventually branches into two arteries, brings deoxygenated blood to the lungs. In the lungs, blood is oxygenated, and travels back to the heart via the pulmonary veins.

7. Pulmonary Veins

These veins bring oxygenated blood back from the lungs, and convey it into the left atrium.

8. Left Atrium

The left atrium accepts oxygenated blood from the pulmonary veins. Its muscular walls contract, pumping oxygenated blood through the bicuspid valve into the left ventricle.

9. Bicuspid Valve

The bicuspid valve is so named because it is fixed to the left atrium via two sets of tendons. These tendons prevent the valve from inverting. This valve prevents the backward flow of oxygenated blood from the left ventricle into the left atrium.

10. Left Atrium

The oxygenated blood flows from the bicuspid valve into this larger sac. The muscles of this sac contract, pumping the blood through the aortic semi-lunar valve into the aorta.

11. Aorta

This major artery conveys oxygenated blood to the rest of the human body.

12. Septum

This muscular wall lies between the two ventricles, and prevents the mixing of blood between them.

13. Myocardium

This is the outermost heart tissue.

These are the basic terms that are likely to be encountered during any study of the heart. Any student who remembers these well is sure to succeed in any biology course!