Heart failure is a condition in which the heart does not pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body’s tissues. To understand what occurs in heart failure, it helps to be familiar with the anatomy of the heart and how it works. The heart is composed of two independent pumping systems, one on the right side, and the other on the left. Each has two chambers, an atrium and a ventricle. The ventricles are the major pumps in the heart.
The Right Side of the Heart. The right system receives blood from the veins of the whole body. This is "used" blood, which is poor in oxygen and rich in carbon dioxide.
- The right atrium is the first chamber that receives blood.
- The chamber expands as its muscles relax to fill with blood that has returned from the body.
- The blood enters a second muscular chamber called the right ventricle.
- The right ventricle is one of the heart's two major pumps. Its function is to pump the blood into the lungs.
- The lungs restore oxygen to the blood and exchange it with carbon dioxide, which is exhaled.
Review Date: 05/04/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.