The cardiac cycle describes the coordinated and rhythmic series of muscular contractions associated with the normal heart beat. The cardiac cycle can be subdivided into two major phases, the systolic phase and the diastolic phase. Systole occurs when the ventricles of the heart contract. Accordingly, systole results in the highest pressures within the systemic and pulmonary circulatory systems. Diastole is the period between ventricular contractions when the right and left ventricles relax and fill. The cardiac cycle cannot be described as a linear series of events associated with the flow of blood through the four chambers. One can not accurately describe the cardiac cycle by simply tracing the path of blood from the right atrium, into the right ventricle, into the pulmonary circulation, the venous pulmonary return to the left atrium, and finally the ejection into the aorta and systemic circulation by the contraction of the left ventricle. In reality, the cardiac cycle is a coordinated series of events that take place simultaneously on both the right pulmonary circuit and left systemic circuit of the heart. The cardiac cycle begins with a period of rapid ventricular filling. The right atrium fills with deoxygenated blood from the superior vena cava, the inferior vena cava, and the coronary venous return (e.g., the coronary sinus and smaller coronary veins). At the same time, the pulmonary veins return oxygenated blood from the lungs to the left atrium. During the early diastolic phase of the cardiac cycle, both ventricles relax and fill from their respective atrial sources. The atrio-ventricular valves (the tricuspid valve is located between the right atrium and right ventricle; the mitral valve is between the left atrium and left ventricle) open and allow blood to flow from the atria into the ventricles. The flow of blood through the atrio-ventricular valves is unidirectional and as volume related pressure increases within the ventricles, the...
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