Circulatory system; Vascular system; Cardiovascular system
The heart's main job is to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body after it pumps oxygen-poor blood to the lungs. It normally does this 60 to 100 times a minute, 24 hours a day.
The heart is made of four chambers:
The right atrium receives oxygen-poor blood from the body. That blood then flows into the right ventricle, which pumps it to the lungs.
The left atrium receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs. From there, the blood flows into the left ventricle, which pumps blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.
Together, the arteries and veins are referred to as the vascular system. In general, arteries carry blood away from the heart and veins carry blood back to the heart.
The cardiovascular system delivers oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and other important substances to cells and organs in the body. It plays an important role in helping the body meet the demands of activity, exercise, and stress. It also helps maintain body temperature, among other things.
Cardiovascular medicine refers to the branch of health care that specializes in the treatment of diseases or conditions dealing with the heart and vascular systems.
Less invasive procedures may be done to diagnose, monitor or treat diseases of the heart and vascular system.
In most of these types of procedures, a catheter is inserted through the skin into a large blood vessel. Such procedures usually do not need general anesthesia. Patients often do not need to stay in the hospital overnight. They recover in 1 to 3 days and can usually return to their normal activities within a week.
Such procedures include:
Ablation therapy to treat cardiac arrhythmias
Angiogram (using x-rays and injected contrast dye to evaluate blood vessels)
Angioplasty (using a small balloon to open a narrowing in a blood vessel) with or without stent placement
Cardiac catheterization (measuring pressures in and around the heart)
Heart surgery may be needed to treat certain heart or blood vessel problems. This may include:
Insertion of pacemakers or defibrillators
Open and minimally invasive coronary artery bypass surgery
Repair or replacement of heart valves
Surgical treatment of congenital heart defects
Vascular surgery refers to surgical procedures that are used to treat or diagnose problems in a blood vessel, such as a blockage or rupture. Such procedures include:
Arterial bypass grafts
Repair of aneurysms (dilated/enlarged portions) of the aorta and its branches
Procedures may also be used to treat arteries that supply the brain, kidneys, intestines, arms and legs.
CARDIOVASCULAR PREVENTION AND REHABILITATION
Cardiac rehabilitation is therapy used to prevent heart disease from getting worse. It is usually recommended after major heart-related events such as a heart attack or cardiac surgery. It may include:
Cardiovascular risk assessments
Health screenings and wellness exams
Nutrition and lifestyle counseling, including smoking cessation and diabetes education
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute web site. "What is the heart?" Accessed Dec. 15, 2011.
Neschis DG. The cardiovascular system. In: Bope ET, Kellerman R, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2012. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 7.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.