The role of the heart is to pump blood through the body's circulation. Echocardiography employs ultrasound to image the heart and great vessels in order to obtain information concerning their anatomy, dimensions, and functional status.
The normal heart consists of four chambers, two atria and two ventricles . These chambers are named for their functional relationship to one another, rather than for their relative position in the chest cavity. The atria are located upstream to their respective ventricles, and serve as conduits to supply the necessary blood to the main pumping chambers of the heart, the ventricles. The function of the left and right ventricle is to deliver blood to the systemic circulation (the body) and the pulmonary circulation (the lungs), respectively. In this normal configuration and excluding abnormal connections within the heart chambers, blood from the venous system is collected in the right atrium and then pumped into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps blood through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs to enable contact with inspired oxygen. Oxygenated blood leaves the lungs via the pulmonary veins and travels to the left atrium and into the left ventricle. The left ventricle is the heart's most important chamber because it must generate the pressure to pump blood to the entire body (Fig. 11.1). Disease processes affecting the left ventricle may reduce its ability to contract forcefully (systolic dysfunction) or to fill efficiently (diastolic dysfunction).
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