Depiction of the heart, major veins and arteries constructed from body scans.
Cross section of a human artery
Relative percentages of cardiac output delivered to major organ systems
The essential components of the human cardiovascular system are the heart, blood and blood vessels. It includes the pulmonary circulation, a "loop" through the lungs where blood is oxygenated; and the systemic circulation, a "loop" through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood. The systemic circulation can also be seen to function in two parts – a macrocirculation and a microcirculation. An average adult contains five to six quarts (roughly 4.7 to 5.7 liters) of blood, accounting for approximately 7% of their total body weight. Blood consists of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Also, the digestive system works with the circulatory system to provide the nutrients the system needs to keep the heart pumping.
The cardiovascular systems of humans are closed, meaning that the blood never leaves the network of blood vessels. In contrast, oxygen and nutrients diffuse across the blood vessel layers and enter interstitial fluid, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the target cells, and carbon dioxide and wastes in the opposite direction. The other component of the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, is open.
Oxygenated blood enters the systemic circulation when leaving the left ventricle, through the aortic semilunar valve. The first part of the systemic circulation is the aorta, a massive and thick-walled artery. The aorta arches and gives branches supplying the upper part of the body after passing through the aortic opening of the diaphragm at the level of thoracic ten vertebra, it enters the abdomen. Later it descends down and supplies branches to abdomen, pelvis, perineum and the lower limbs. The walls of aorta are elastic. This elasticity helps to maintain the blood pressure throughout the body. When the aorta receives almost five litres of blood from the heart, it recoils and is responsible for pulsating blood pressure. Moreover, as aorta branches into smaller arteries, their elasticity goes on decreasing and their compliance goes on increasing.
Arteries branch into small passages called arterioles and then into the capillaries. The capillaries merge to bring blood into the venous system.
After their passage through body tissues, capillaries merge once again into venules, which continue to merge into veins. The venous system finally coalesces into two major veins: the superior vena cava (roughly speaking draining the areas above the heart) and the inferior vena cava (roughly speaking from areas below the heart). These two great vessels empty into the right atrium of the heart.
The heart itself is supplied with oxygen and nutrients through a small "loop" of the systemic circulation and derives very little from the blood contained within the four chambers.
The general rule is that arteries from the heart branch out into capillaries, which collect into veins leading back to the heart. Portal veins are a slight exception to this. In humans the only significant example is the hepatic portal vein which combines from capillaries around the gastrointestinal tract where the blood absorbs the various products of digestion; rather than leading directly back to the heart, the hepatic portal vein branches into a second capillary system in the liver.
The heart pumps oxygenated blood to the body and deoxygenated blood to the lungs. In the human heart there is one atrium and one ventricle for each circulation, and with both a systemic and a pulmonary circulation there are four chambers in total: left atrium, left ventricle, right atrium and right ventricle. The right atrium is the upper chamber of the right side of the heart. The blood that is returned to the right atrium is deoxygenated (poor in oxygen) and passed into the right ventricle to be pumped through the pulmonary artery to the lungs for re-oxygenation and removal of carbon dioxide. The left atrium receives newly oxygenated blood from the lungs as well as the pulmonary vein which is passed into the strong left ventricle to be pumped through the aorta to the different organs of the body.
The coronary circulation system provides a blood supply to the heart muscle itself. The coronary circulation begins near the origin of the aorta by two coronary arteries: the right coronary artery and the left coronary artery. After nourishing the heart muscle, blood returns through the coronary veins into the coronary sinus and from this one into the right atrium. Back flow of blood through its opening during atrial systole is prevented by the Thebesian valve. The smallest cardiac veins drain directly into the heart chambers.
The circulatory system of the lungs is the portion of the cardiovascular system in which oxygen-depleted blood is pumped away from the heart, via the pulmonary artery, to the lungs and returned, oxygenated, to the heart via the pulmonary vein.
Oxygen deprived blood from the superior and inferior vena cava enters the right atrium of the heart and flows through the tricuspid valve (right atrioventricular valve) into the right ventricle, from which it is then pumped through the pulmonary semilunar valve into the pulmonary artery to the lungs. Gas exchange occurs in the lungs, whereby CO2 is released from the blood, and oxygen is absorbed. The pulmonary vein returns the now oxygen-rich blood to the left atrium.
A separate system known as the bronchial circulation supplies blood to the tissue of the larger airways of the lung.
The systemic circulation and capillary networks shown and also as separate from the pulmonary circulation
Systemic circulation is the portion of the cardiovascular system which transports oxygenated blood away from the heart through the aorta from the left ventricle where the blood has been previously deposited from pulmonary circulation, to the rest of the body, and returns oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart.
The brain has a dual blood supply that comes from arteries at its front and back. These are called the "anterior" and "posterior" circulation respectively. The anterior circulation arises from the internal carotid arteries and supplies the front of the brain. The posterior circulation arises from the vertebral arteries, and supplies the back of the brain and brainstem. The circulation from the front and the back join together (anastomise) at the Circle of Willis.
The renal circulation receives around 20% of the cardiac output. It branches from the abdominal aorta and returns blood to the ascending vena cava. It is the blood supply to the kidneys, and contains many specialized blood vessels.
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system. It is a network of lymphatic vessels and lymph capillaries, lymph nodes and organs, and lymphatic tissues and circulating lymph. One of its major functions is to carry the lymph, draining and returning interstitial fluid back towards the heart for return to the cardiovascular system, by emptying into the lymphatic ducts. Its other main function is in the adaptive immune system.