Exercises in anatomy: the normal heart

Anderson, R. H.; Sarwark, A.; Spicer, D. E.; Backer, C. L.

Multimed Man Cardiothorac Surg. 2014 Dec 17; 2014


In the first of our exercises in anatomy, created for the Multimedia Manual of the European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery, we emphasized that thorough knowledge of intracardiac anatomy was an essential part of the training for all budding cardiac surgeons, explaining how we had used the archive of congenitally malformed hearts maintained at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago to prepare a series of videoclips, demonstrating the salient features of tetralogy of Fallot. In this series of videoclips, we extend our analysis of the normal heart, since for our initial exercise we had concentrated exclusively on the structure of the right ventricular outflow tract. We begin our overview of normal anatomy by emphasizing the need, in the current era, to describe the heart in attitudinally appropriate fashion. Increasingly, clinicians are demonstrating the features of the heart as it is located within the body. It is no longer satisfactory, therefore, to describe these components in a 'Valentine' fashion, as continues to be the case in most textbooks of normal or cardiac anatomy. We then emphasize the importance of the so-called morphological method, which states that structures within the heart should be defined on the basis of their own intrinsic morphology, and not according to other parts, which are themselves variable. We continue by using this concept to show how it is the appendages that serve to distinguish between the atrial chambers, while the apical trabecular components provide the features to distinguish the ventricles. We then return to the cardiac chambers, emphasizing features of surgical significance, in particular the locations of the cardiac conduction tissues. We proceed by examining the cardiac valves, and conclude by providing a detailed analysis of the septal structures.

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