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Patient's Guide to Heart Transplant Surgery

About Your Heart

The heart with aorta and other arteries.The heart is a muscle a little bigger than the size of your fist. It is located in the middle of your chest just behind the sternum, which is the flat bone at the center of your rib cage. Your heart is a pump that moves blood throughout your body.

Blood feeds the cells of your body. It does this by carrying oxygen to the cells so they can stay healthy and do work. The blood also carries carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of the cells, so that it can be removed from the body. Your heart has four chambers: the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. Blood coming from your head and body is filled with a large amount of carbon dioxide and very little oxygen. This blood enters the heart through a large vein known as the vena cava. The vena cava enters the heart at the right atrium. From there, the blood flows down to the right ventricle. The right ventricle squeezes the blood through the pulmonary arteries and into the lungs. In the lungs, the blood loses the carbon dioxide and picks up more oxygen. Then the blood goes back to the left atrium of the heart. From there, it flows down to the left ventricle. The left ventricle is the biggest and strongest chamber of the heart. It pumps the fresh blood out to the cells of the brain and body through the aorta.

Your heart beats because of an electric flow that is passed through its cells. The flow of electricity comes from the sinus node, which is a little bundle of nerve cells in the wall of the right atrium. Each time the sinus node sends out an electric flow, the heart cells along the path of electricity squeeze together, causing the pumping action of the heart. The electricity flows to the atria first and works its way down to the ventricles, making them pump just after the atria. When the cells of the ventricles squeeze together, blood is pumped to the lungs, head, and body.



> Next: What Happens When Your Own Heart Fails


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