The Effects and Damage to Your Heart


First off, before you learn how Pericarditis effects your heart, you need to know about the heart. Getting some inside knowledge about how your heart works will let you better understand whats going on.

To start off, your heart consists of four chambers (right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, and left ventricle), four valves (tricuspid valve, mitral valve, pulmonic valve, and aortic valve), a pericardium, and major blood vessels that keep your heart healthy and alive. All of these parts combine together into one major-working system. Now, its time to break it down one part at a time

Chambers: As you can clearly depict, the left atrium and ventricle are on the left side of the heart, so as the right atrium and ventricle are on the right side of the heart. The right atrium and ventricle help pump deoxygenated blood inside the heart, while the left atrium and ventricle pump the oxygenated blood to organs and parts of the body.

Valves: These valves serve as entrances for blood flow to leave and enter the heart. The mitral and the aortic valves help let oxygenated blood leave the heart, while the pulmonary and tricuspid valves let deoxygenated blood enter the heart.

Pericardium: This serous fluid-filled (acts as a lubricant protection, and cushioning), fibrous sac (outermost-layer) encloses the heart in the chest cavity, limits the heart motions, and prevents heart from over-expanding. Its' three layers (Fibrous, Parietal, and Visceral) help maintain the pericardium's structure.

Major Blood Vessels: Your major blood vessels consist of two parts; Systemic Circulation, and Pulmonary Circulation. These blood vessels are the Aorta, Superior Vena Cava, Interior Vena Cava, Pulmonary Trunk, Pulmonary (left and right) arteries, and Pulmonary veins (left and right).

Major Blood Vessels

Aorta - The walls of the aorta consist of three layers. They are the tunica adventitia, the tunica media, and the tunica intima. These layers are composed of connective tissue, as well as elastic fibers. These fibers allow the aorta to stretch to prevent over-expansion due to the pressure that is exerted on the walls by blood flow.

Superior Vena Cava - the second largest vein of the body, returning deoxygenated blood from the upper half of the body to the right atrium. It is about 2 cm in diameter and 7 cm long. The section of the superior vena cava closest to the heart composes about one half of the vessel's length and is within the pericardial sac, covered by the serous pericardium. It has no valves.

Interior Vena Cava - the large vein that returns deoxygenated blood to the heart from parts of the body below the diaphragm. It is formed by the junction of the two common iliac veins to the right of the fifth lumbar vertebra and ascends along the vertebral column, pierces the diaphragm, and opens into the right atrium of the heart. As it passes through the diaphragm, it receives a covering of serous pericardium. The inferior vena cava contains a semilunar valve that is rudimentary in the adult but very large and important in the fetus.

Pulmonary Trunk - An arterial trunk with origin from the right ventricle of the heart, and dividing into the right and left pulmonary arteries, which enter the corresponding lungs and branch with the bronchi.

Pulmonary Artery - One of the two vessels which are formed as terminal branches of the pulmonary trunk and convey un-aerated blood to the lungs. The two pulmonary arteries differ in length and anatomy. The right pulmonary artery is the longer of the two. It passes transversely across the mid-line in the upper chest and passes below the aortic arch to enter the hilum of the right lung as part of its root. The left pulmonary artery is the shorter of the two terminal branches of the pulmonary trunk. It pierces the pericardium (the sac around the heart) and enters the hilum of the left lung.

Pulmonary Veins - one of two pairs of large vessels that return oxygenated blood from each lung to the left atrium of the heart. The right pulmonary veins pass dorsal to the right atrium and the superior vena cava. The left pulmonary veins pass ventral to the descending thoracic aorta.

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Arteries, Veins, and Capillaries

Lets talk first about the structure of the arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries are the thick tubes carrying oxygenated blood from the heart to the extremities and organs. Capillaries are the fine branches of arteries or veins which supply blood to the bodies extremities, and veins are the thinner tubes carrying the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. In other words: Arteries: carry rich blood from the heart, and veins carry poor blood to the heart

The Systems

Now that you understand parts of the heart, we need to go even deeper and know the types of systems inside our heart.

Systemic System - Systemic circulation refers to the part of the circulatory system in which the blood leaves the heart, services the body's cells, and then re-enters the heart. Blood leaves through the left ventricle to the aorta (the body's largest artery). The aorta leads to smaller arteries, arterioles, and finally capillaries. Waste and carbon dioxide diffuse out of the cell into the blood, and oxygen in the blood diffuses into the cell. Blood then moves to venious capillaries, and then the venae cavae: the lower inferior vena cava and the upper superior vena cava, through which the blood re-enters the heart at the right atrium.

* Note the difference between oxygenated and poor-oxygen blood. Oxygenated contains more oxygen, while the poor-oxygen clearly has less, if not, seldom oxygen within the blood.

Pulmonary System - Movement of blood from the heart, to the lungs, and back to the heart again. This is just one phase of the overall circulatory system. The veins bring waste-rich blood back to the heart, entering the right atrium throughout two large veins called vena cavae. The right atrium fills with the waste-rich blood and then contracts, pushing the blood through a one-way valve into the right ventricle. The right ventricle fills and then contracts, pushing the blood into the pulmonary artery which leads to the lungs. In the lung capillaries, the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place. The fresh, oxygen-rich blood enters the pulmonary veins and then returns to the heart, re-entering through the left atrium. The oxygen-rich blood then passes through a one-way valve into the left ventricle where it will exit the heart through the main artery, called the aorta. The left ventricle's contraction forces the blood into the aorta and the blood begins its journey throughout the body.

Conduction System - The conducting system of the heart consists of cardiac muscle cells and conducting fibers (not nervous tissue) that are specialized for initiating impulses and conducting them rapidly through the heart. They initiate the normal cardiac cycle and coordinate the contractions of cardiac chambers. Both atria contract together, as do the ventricles, but atrial contraction occurs first. The conducting system provides the heart its automatic rhythmic beat. For the heart to pump efficiently and the systemic and pulmonary circulations to operate in synchrony, the events in the cardiac cycle must be coordinated.

ECG Test, Blood Pressure, and Cardiac Cycle

The ECG Test is a test that shows how the heart is beating and functioning (See Diagram and Pictures Section for a picture). This test checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An ECG translates the heart's electrical activity into line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves.

Blood Pressure can be a good and bad factor for your heart's health. High blood pressure can cause dramatic damage, while low blood pressure may cause the body to become too weak and vulnerable. You determine your blood pressure with the Systolic and Diastolic numbers. Systolic is the top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts). Diastolic is the bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood). The five factors that influence blood pressure are: Exercise, Alcohol/Smoking, Medication, Diets, and Caffeine/Stress. These factors can either lower or raise the blood pressure, depending on the amount.

A cardiac cycle is the sequence of events that occurs when the heart beats. There are two phases of the cardiac cycle. In the first phase, the heart ventricles are relaxed and the heart fills with blood. In the second phase, the ventricles contract and pump blood to the arteries. One cardiac cycle is completed when the heart fills with blood, and the blood is pumped out of the heart.

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Stroke Volume, Pulse, and A Normal Heart

Stroke Volume is the amount of blood pumped by the left ventricle of the heart in one contraction. The stroke volume is not all the blood contained in the left ventricle; normally only about twp-thirds of the blood in the ventricle is expelled with each beat. Together with the heart rate, the stroke volume determines the output of blood by the heart per minute (cardiac output).

A pulse is the rate at which your heart beats. Your pulse is usually called your heart rate. the rate at which your heart beats. Your pulse is usually called your heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats each minute (bpm). But the rhythm and strength of the heartbeat can also be noted, as well as whether the blood vessel feels hard or soft. Changes in your heart rate or rhythm, a weak pulse, or a hard blood vessel may be caused by heart disease or another problem.

As your heart pumps blood through your body, you can feel a pulsing in some of the blood vessels close to the skin's surface, such as in your wrist, neck, or upper arm. Counting your pulse rate is a simple way to find out how fast your heart is beating.

Do you know what a normal heart sounds like? It should sound similar to a "lub dub" pattern. The "lub" is when the mitral and tricuspid valves are opening. The "dub" is when those valves close, and open the aortic and pulmonic valves. The sound is produced by the blood hitting the valves's walls

Blood Tests

The three blood tests (hematocrit test, WBC count, and platelet count) each have a certain method/idea in mind.

- Hematocrit: used to screen for, diagnose, or monitor a number of conditions and diseases that affect the proportion of the blood made up of red blood cells (RBCs). It is often used with a hemoglobin level as a simple and quick evaluation of RBCs or is performed as part of a complete blood count (CBC) as an integral part of a health evaluation.

- WBC Count: A blood test to measure the number of white blood cells (WBCs).

White blood cells help fight infections.

- Platelet Count: Measures how many platelets you have in your blood. Platelets help the blood clot. They are smaller than red or white blood cells.


What causes Pericarditis? Under normal circumstances, the two-layered pericardial sac that surrounds your heart contains a small amount of lubricating fluid. In pericarditis, the sac becomes inflamed and the resulting friction from the inflamed sac leads to chest pain. In some cases the amount of fluid contained in the pericardial sac may increase, causing a pericardial effusion. The cause of pericarditis is often hard to determine. In most cases doctors are either unable to determine a cause (idiopathic) or suspect a viral infection.

The patient's ECG results (See in Diagrams and Pictures for a photo) are quite different than a regular ECG test. See below for the picture.

The patient's pulse results are irregular and not normal. Some pulses are harder and faster than others. Pericarditis does affect pulse regulation.

The patient's blood pressure will rise if the fluid or blood that collects between the layers of the pericardium interferes with its ability to pump blood. If the pressure gets too high, a life-threatening complication, cardiac tamponade, may develop.

The patient's stroke volume in their pericardium may modulate acute compensatory changes in stroke volumes seen with sudden changes in cardiac volume, but such a mechanism has never been clearly demonstrated.

The patient's cardiac output results are shown to greatly decrease over time.

The patient's heart sounds will been muffled or "distant". Also known as a pericardial rub, the sounds are hard to hear and identify.

The patient's blood test will be used to make sure you are not having a heart attack, to evaluate the heart’s function, test the fluid in the pericardium and determine the underlying cause of the pericarditis. Often, the sedimentation rate (ESR) or C reactive protein levels (markers of inflammation) are elevated. Other laboratory tests may include evaluation for autoimmune diseases.

How to Treat Pericarditis?

Pericarditis can be treated many ways depending on the severity, but some of the ways are:

- Take aspirin

- Pericardiocentesis

- Herbs and Vitamins

- Ibuprofen

- Pericardiectomy

- Medical Treatments

- Colchicine

- Corticosteroids

Diagrams and Pictures

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Work Cited

- "Pericarditis: Treatments and drugs -" Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <>.

- "Pericarditis - PubMed Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <

- "Blood Vessels: Capillaries - The Human Heart: An Online Exploration from The Franklin Institute, made possible by Unisys." The Franklin Institute - Home - 215.448.1200 . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <

- "ECG (electrocardiogram)." - The UK's leading independent health website. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. <