Posts Tagged ‘Ventricle’

Pumps your blood!

January 1, 2010

Funky Heart! reader (and  longtime friend!) Laura reminded me of another way to learn the path of blood through the body: The Pump your Blood! song, from the TV show Happy Days!

Below is a clip from the TV show with Anson Williams singing the song. Here are the lyrics:

Pump, pump, pumps your blood!

The right atrium’s where the process begins, where the C02 blood enters the heart. Through the tricuspid valve, to the right ventricle, the pulmonary artery, and lungs.

Once inside the lungs, it dumps its carbon dioxide and picks up its oxygen supply. Then it’s back to the heart through the pulmonary vein, through the atrium and left ventricle.

Pump, pump, pumps your blood!

Pump, pump, pumps your blood!

The aortic valve is where the blood leaves the heart, then it’s channeled to the rest of the bod. The arteries, arterioles, and capillaries too bring the oxygenated blood to the cells. The tissues and the cells trade off waste and C02, which is carried through the venules and the veins. Through the larger vena cava to the atrium and lungs, and we’re back to where we started in the heart!

Pump, pump, pumps your blood!

New findings indicate source of A-Fib

December 29, 2009

Atrial Fibrillation, or A-fib, is one of the problems many CHDers will face. In a normal heart, an electrical signal is generated by the Sinoatrial node (also known as the SA node and is located near the top of the Right Atrium) and flows outward, causing the Atria to contract. When the electrical impulse reaches the Atrioventricular node, (AV node) it triggers its own electrical impulse which causes the Ventricles to contract, creating the “lub-dub” heartbeat we are all familiar with.

But when extra electrical impulses are moving through the heart’s electrical system, the Atria won’t contract, but rather fibrillate, or quiver. And if the electrical pulse isn’t strong enough the AV node won’t activate the Ventricles. A-fib is usually asymptomatic and painless, (though you can feel your heart beating out of rhythm) but there is a very real chance that the blood pooling in the not-quite-beating upper chambers can clot and cause a stroke.They can also lead to Congestive Heart Failure. (CHF)

One of the usual techniques used to stop A-fib is ablation. Before an ablation, the heart is examined closely and “mapped” to determine where the extra electrical impulses are coming from. Then a catheter is inserted through a vein in the leg or the neck and is guided to the heart. The sources of the extra electrical impulses are then “zapped” (or frozen) to knock them out, and the heart beat should be restored to normal. It doesn’t always work.

But researchers have recently determined that the cells that produce the heart’s electrical charge – and can cause Atrial Fibrillation – also express the protein DCT. DCT only originates from a couple of sources in the body, and only one inside the heart – the electrical current cells. So if scientists can learn a way to identify DCT cells in the heart, they’ll have a way to determine where electrical pulses can orgininate – and deaden the ones causing A-fib.

But this technology is a long way from being reality, if it works at all. Right now, studies are being conducted on mouse hearts. Mouse hearts are similar to human hearts, close enough to be used in research. But when it comes to transferring the results from a mouse to a man, there is a lot of difference!

New Catheter patch for VSD repairs!

April 17, 2009

Here’s something new and very cool… a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) patch that can be inserted via Catheter! It’s been in use in Europe and has just been approved for use by the FDA.

Fixing a VSD through Catheterization is difficult, to say the least. Entry to the heart is through the blood vessels, and normally all the blood vessels connect to the upper chambers of the heart, the Left and Right Atrium. Once inside an Atrium, the Catheter has to very gently be threaded through a heart valve into the Ventricle. Then the VSD must be located, the  Catheter moved to the correct location, and the patch inserted.

And no sudden moves please… unless you want to damage that heart valve! Most patients (and their doctors) would prefer that  you didn’t!

My Glenn Shunt is worth more on eBay!

October 13, 2008

Yeah, you read that right. My Glenn Shunt would bring a higher price on eBay! Yours? Not so much. I have a classic vintage model, so the price would be higher!

I’m kidding with you, obviously. If you happen to need a Glenn Shunt (or any other heart operation) then the true cost is out of your reach; it’s priceless.

The Glenn Shunt is one of the oldest heart operations around. It was first described in 1951, and Dr. William Glenn of Yale University first reported performing the procedure successfully in 1958. Since he was the first person to routinely have success, the operation bears his name. (If you or someone you know has a Glenn shunt, please click THIS LINK and download and read the PDF file. There is a lot of important information here that you need to know!)

When I tell people I have a Glenn Shunt, the ones who know what I’m talking about will nod their heads knowingly. Most of the time, though, they are still wrong. My Glenn was done in 1967, and I am a proud owner of a Classic Glenn Shunt. Most of the Glenns done today are the Bidirectional Glenn Shunt.

So what’s the difference? Before you describe the Glenn, it helps to have a diagram to help you visualize it. Click HERE for a useful diagram of the heart.

In the Classic Glenn, the Superior Vena Cava (The large vessel that leads into the Right Atrium) is closed near the Right Atrium (usually, it is not cut, but rather sewn closed.) The Pulmonary Artery (the “T” shaped blood vessel that runs under the “loop” formed by the Aorta) is also cut… the right branch of the Pulmonary Artery is disconnected. The hole left by cutting the right branch of the Artery is sewn closed, and then the right branch is connected to the side of the Superior Vena Cava.  By doing this, the Right Atrium is completely removed from the blood flow. Blood coming to the heart through the Superior Vena Cava now goes directly to the Right Lung, and flows back to the Left Atrium normally. Then it goes through the Left Ventricle and back out to the body.

The Bidirectional Glenn was invented, surprisingly, in 1966. While it was around when I had my Classic Glenn in 1967, my operation was the fifth Glenn Shunt (of any kind) that had been performed at Johns Hopkins; so it is a safe assumption that the surgeons weren’t prepared to try the new version just yet. In fact, the Bidirectional Glenn really came into its own in the 1980’s, when it became the second step in the three operation Norwood Procedure used to combat Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).  It’s also part of the Fontan Procedure, sometimes performed as a seperate operation as part of a Staged Fontan.  The biggest difference in the two operations is that in the Classic Glenn, the Superior Vena Cava is completely cut and sewn into the right branch of the Pulmonary Artery. In the Bidirectional Glenn the Pulmonary Artery is not cut, which allows blood flow to both lungs.

It’s important for someone with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) to know what “version” of an operation they have had. For years, I told doctors “I have a Glenn Shunt,” not knowing that the operation had been changed. After I had told a new doctor that I had a Glenn Shunt, he slapped my X-Ray on the lightboard, took a long pause, and finally said “I don’t know what the hell this is, but it ain’t no Glenn Shunt.” Only after the head of the Cardiology Department came in and said “I haven’t seen one of those in a while!” did I realize that simply saying “Glenn Shunt” wasn’t good enough. Thankfully that snafu occured during a routine office visit and not a crisis visit to an Emergency Department.

Turn my Beat Around!

July 27, 2008

My name is Steve. I am 41 years old, and I have a Congenital Heart Defect known as Tricuspid Atresia. Before you can understand how my heart works, you have to have an understanding of how a normal heart works. Come with me, I’ll be happy to walk you through it.

Draw a circle on a piece of paper and split it into fourths with two intersecting lines – top and bottom, left and right. A simple drawing, because the heart is a simple machine. It’s really just two pumps fused together. The two upper chambers are called atriums, and the lower chambers are called ventricles.

Blood flows into the Right Atrium (which is always pictured on the LEFT side of an anatomically correct heart drawing. Imagine the owner of the heart lying on a table in front of you.) and drains through the Tricuspid Valve into the Right Ventricle. The heart then contracts,  sending blood through the Pulmonary Valve into the Pulmonary Artery. The Pulmonary Artery looks like a capital T, as it branches both left and right and delivers blood to the lungs.

After being oxygenated in the lungs, the blood returns to the heart, flowing into the Left Atrium. It then flows downward through the Mitral Valve into the Left Ventricle. The next heartbeat forces blood out of the Left Ventricle, through the Aortic Valve, and into the Aorta. The Aorta is easily recognized; it is the blood vessel that loops over the Pulmonary Artery’s T. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

But that’s not the way *my* heart works. Blood flows into my Right Atrium just fine, but then it bumps into the “Atresia” part of Tricuspid Atresia. Atresia is a Latin word meaning “very small or underdeveloped”, or as we say in the South, “It just ain’t there!” And that describes my Tricuspid Valve… it’s just not there.

This is a major problem. Blood must get into the Right Ventricle, so it can be pumped through the Pulmonary Artery to the lungs. There is no exception to this rule. So my blood is forced to use the back door.

The second part of Tricuspid Atresia is a hole in the wall separating the two Atriums. My blood flows across to the Left Atrium, where it continues into the Left Ventricle and then out into the body. This isn’t good, because the blood in the Left Atrium is full of oxygen, and the blood coming from the Right Atrium doesn’t have much oxygen at all. It never made the trip to the lungs, but it still gets pumped out to the body. Since the oxygen in my blood is lower than it should be, I’m Cyanotic – I have a bluish tinge to my fingertips, my lips are dark, and I tire easily.

So now we have a path for the blood to bypass the Right Ventricle and flow back to the body, but I still need to get my blood to the lungs. I also have a hole in the wall that separates the two Ventricles. This is known as a Ventricular Septal Defect, and it allows blood to find its way from the Left Ventricle over to the Right Ventricle. Now that the blood has finally made it to the Right Ventricle, it can make the trip to the lungs.

It’s a complicated heart defect, and has made parts of my life complicated. I’ve had three heart surgeries, two that went well and one… not so well. I take an entire pharmacy full of pills every day! (OK, I’m exaggerating that just a little!) But I have also met some of the nicest people and some of the best doctors in medicine.

I’m here to tell you my story, if you’ll hear it. Maybe I can break a few stereotypes along the way.