How Does Blood Flow Through the Heart
The right and left sides of the heart work together
Blood enters the heart through two large veins, the inferior and superior vena cava, emptying oxygen-poor blood from the body into the right atrium.
The pulmonary vein empties oxygen-rich blood, from the lungs into the left atrium.
Blood flows from your right atrium into your right ventricle through the open tricuspid valve. When the ventricles are full, the tricuspid valve shuts. This prevents blood from flowing backward into the atria while the ventricles contract (squeeze).
Blood flows from your left atrium into your left ventricle through the open mitral valve. When the ventricles are full, the mitral valve shuts. This prevents blood from flowing backward into the atria while the ventricles contract (squeeze).
Oxygen and carbon dioxide travels to and from tiny air sacs in the lungs, through the walls of the capillaries, into the blood.
Blood leaves the heart through the pulmonic valve, into the pulmonary artery and to the lungs.
Blood leaves the heart through the aortic valve, into the aorta and to the body. This pattern is repeated, causing blood to flow continuously to the heart, lungs and body.
How does blood flow through your lungs?
Once blood travels through the pulmonic valve, it enters your lungs. This is called the pulmonary circulation. From your pulmonic valve, blood travels to the pulmonary artery to tiny capillary vessels in the lungs. Here, oxygen travels from the tiny air sacs in the lungs, through the walls of the capillaries, into the blood. At the same time, carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, passes from the blood into the air sacs. Carbon dioxide leaves the body when you exhale. Once the blood is purified and oxygenated, it travels back to the left atrium through the pulmonary veins.
Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)
Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.
Schedule an Appointment
This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace
the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider.
Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
© Copyright 2015 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.