When the left ventricle contracts, the ventricular pressure increases rapidly until the aortic valve opens. Then, after the valve opens, the pressure in the ventricle rises much less rapidly, as shown in Figure 9-5, because blood immediately flows out of the ventricle into the aorta and then into the systemic distribution arteries.
The entry of blood into the arteries causes the walls of these arteries to stretch and the pressure to increase to about 120 mm Hg.
Next, at the end of systole, after the left ventricle stops ejecting blood and the aortic valve closes, the elastic walls of the arteries maintain a high pressure in the arteries, even during diastole.
A so-called incisura occurs in the aortic pressure curve when the aortic valve closes. This is caused by a short period of backward flow of blood immediately before closure of the valve, followed by sudden cessation of the backflow.
After the aortic valve has closed, the pressure in the aorta decreases slowly throughout diastole because the blood stored in the distended elastic arteries flows continually through the peripheral vessels back to the veins. Before the ventricle contracts again, the aortic pressure usually has fallen to about 80 mm Hg (dias-tolic pressure), which is two thirds the maximal pressure of 120 mm Hg (systolic pressure) that occurs in the aorta during ventricular contraction.
The pressure curves in the right ventricle and pulmonary artery are similar to those in the aorta, except that the pressures are only about one sixth as great, as discussed in Chapter 14.
When listening to the heart with a stethoscope, one does not hear the opening of the valves because this is a relatively slow process that normally makes no noise. However, when the valves close, the vanes of the valves and the surrounding fluids vibrate under the influence of sudden pressure changes, giving off sound that travels in all directions through the chest.
When the ventricles contract, one first hears a sound caused by closure of the A-V valves.The vibration is low in pitch and relatively long-lasting and is known as the first heart sound. When the aortic and pulmonary valves close at the end of systole, one hears a rapid snap because these valves close rapidly, and the surroundings vibrate for a short period. This sound is called the second heart sound. The precise causes of the heart sounds are discussed more fully in Chapter 23, in relation to listening to the sounds with the stethoscope.
The stroke work output of the heart is the amount of energy that the heart converts to work during each heartbeat while pumping blood into the arteries. Minute work output is the total amount of energy converted to work in 1 minute; this is equal to the stroke work output times the heart rate per minute.
Work output of the heart is in two forms. First, by far the major proportion is used to move the blood from the low-pressure veins to the high-pressure arteries. This is called volume-pressure work or external work. Second, a minor proportion of the energy is used to accelerate the blood to its velocity of ejection through the aortic and pulmonary valves. This is the kinetic energy of blood flow component of the work output.
Right ventricular external work output is normally about one sixth the work output of the left ventricle because of the sixfold difference in systolic pressures that the two ventricles pump. The additional work output of each ventricle required to create kinetic energy of blood flow is proportional to the mass of blood ejected times the square of velocity of ejection.
Ordinarily, the work output of the left ventricle required to create kinetic energy of blood flow is only about 1 per cent of the total work output of the ventricle and therefore is ignored in the calculation of the total stroke work output. But in certain abnormal conditions, such as aortic stenosis, in which blood flows with great velocity through the stenosed valve, more than 50 per cent of the total work output may be required to create kinetic energy of blood flow.
Figure 9-7 shows a diagram that is especially useful in explaining the pumping mechanics of the left ventricle. The most important components of the diagram are the two curves labeled "diastolic pressure" and "systolic pressure." These curves are volume-pressure curves.
The diastolic pressure curve is determined by filling the heart with progressively greater volumes of blood and then measuring the diastolic pressure immediately before ventricular contraction occurs, which is the end-diastolic pressure of the ventricle.
The systolic pressure curve is determined by recording the systolic pressure achieved during ventricular contraction at each volume of filling.
Relationship between left ventricular volume and intraventricular pressure during diastole and systole. Also shown by the heavy red lines is the "volume-pressure diagram," demonstrating changes in intraventricular volume and pressure during the normal cardiac cycle. EW, net external work.
Until the volume of the noncontracting ventricle rises above about 150 milliliters, the "diastolic" pressure does not increase greatly. Therefore, up to this volume, blood can flow easily into the ventricle from the atrium. Above 150 milliliters, the ventricular diastolic pressure increases rapidly, partly because of fibrous tissue in the heart that will stretch no more and partly because the pericardium that surrounds the heart becomes filled nearly to its limit.
During ventricular contraction, the "systolic" pressure increases even at low ventricular volumes and reaches a maximum at a ventricular volume of 150 to 170 milliliters. Then, as the volume increases still further, the systolic pressure actually decreases under some conditions, as demonstrated by the falling systolic pressure curve in Figure 9-7, because at these great volumes, the actin and myosin filaments of the cardiac muscle fibers are pulled apart far enough that the strength of each cardiac fiber contraction becomes less than optimal.
Note especially in the figure that the maximum systolic pressure for the normal left ventricle is between 250 and 300 mm Hg, but this varies widely with each person's heart strength and degree of heart stimulation by cardiac nerves. For the normal right ventricle, the maximum systolic pressure is between 60 and 80 mm Hg.
"Volume-Pressure Diagram" During the Cardiac Cycle; Cardiac Work Output. The red lines in Figure 9-7 form a loop called the volume-pressure diagram of the cardiac cycle for normal function of the left ventricle. It is divided into four phases.
Phase I: Period of filling. This phase in the volume-pressure diagram begins at a ventricular volume of about 45 milliliters and a diastolic pressure near 0 mm Hg. Forty-five milliliters is the amount of blood that remains in the ventricle after the previous heartbeat and is called the end-systolic volume. As venous blood flows into the ventricle from the left atrium, the ventricular volume normally increases to about 115 milliliters, called the end-diastolic volume, an increase of 70 milliliters. Therefore, the volume-pressure diagram during phase I extends along the line labeled "I," with the volume increasing to 115 milliliters and the diastolic pressure rising to about 5 mm Hg. Phase II: Period of isovolumic contraction. During isovolumic contraction, the volume of the ventricle does not change because all valves are closed. However, the pressure inside the ventricle increases to equal the pressure in the aorta, at a pressure value of about 80 mm Hg, as depicted by the arrow end of the line labeled "II." Phase III: Period of ejection. During ejection, the systolic pressure rises even higher because of still more contraction of the ventricle. At the same time, the volume of the ventricle decreases because the aortic valve has now opened and blood flows out of the ventricle into the aorta. Therefore, the curve labeled "III" traces the changes in volume and systolic pressure during this period of ejection. Phase IV: Period of isovolumic relaxation. At the end of the period of ejection, the aortic valve closes, and the ventricular pressure falls back to the diastolic pressure level. The line labeled "IV" traces this decrease in intraventricular pressure without any change in volume. Thus, the ventricle returns to its starting point, with about 45 milliliters of blood left in the ventricle and at an atrial pressure near 0 mm Hg.
Readers well trained in the basic principles of physics should recognize that the area subtended by this functional volume-pressure diagram (the tan shaded area, labeled EW) represents the net external work output of the ventricle during its contraction cycle. In experimental studies of cardiac contraction, this diagram is used for calculating cardiac work output.
When the heart pumps large quantities of blood, the area of the work diagram becomes much larger. That is, it extends far to the right because the ventricle fills with more blood during diastole, it rises much higher because the ventricle contracts with greater pressure, and it usually extends farther to the left because the ventricle contracts to a smaller volume—especially if the ventricle is stimulated to increased activity by the sympathetic nervous system.
Concepts of Preload and Afterload. In assessing the contractile properties of muscle, it is important to specify the degree of tension on the muscle when it begins to contract, which is called the preload, and to specify the load against which the muscle exerts its contractile force, which is called the afterload.
For cardiac contraction, the preload is usually considered to be the end-diastolic pressure when the ventricle has become filled.
The afterload of the ventricle is the pressure in the artery leading from the ventricle. In Figure 9-7, this corresponds to the systolic pressure described by the phase III curve of the volume-pressure diagram. (Sometimes the afterload is loosely considered to be the resistance in the circulation rather than the pressure.)
The importance of the concepts of preload and after-load is that in many abnormal functional states of the heart or circulation, the pressure during filling of the ventricle (the preload), the arterial pressure against which the ventricle must contract (the afterload), or both are severely altered from normal.
Chemical Energy Required for Cardiac Contraction: Oxygen Utilization by the Heart
Heart muscle, like skeletal muscle, uses chemical energy to provide the work of contraction. This energy is derived mainly from oxidative metabolism of fatty acids and, to a lesser extent, of other nutrients, especially lactate and glucose. Therefore, the rate of oxygen consumption by the heart is an excellent measure of the chemical energy liberated while the heart performs its work. The different chemical reactions that liberate this energy are discussed in Chapters 67 and 68.
Efficiency of Cardiac Contraction. During heart muscle contraction, most of the expended chemical energy is converted into heat and a much smaller portion into work output. The ratio of work output to total chemical energy expenditure is called the efficiency of cardiac contraction, or simply efficiency of the heart. Maximum efficiency of the normal heart is between 20 and 25 per cent. In heart failure, this can decrease to as low as 5 to 10 per cent.
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