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Veins serve to return blood from organs to the heart. Veins are also called "capacitance vessels" because most of the blood volume (60%) is contained within veins. In systemic circulation oxygenated blood is pumped by the left ventricle through the arteries to the muscles and organs of the body, where its nutrients and gases are exchanged at capillaries, the blood then enter veinules, then veins filled with cellular waste and carbon dioxide. The de-oxygenated blood is taken by veins to the right atrium of the heart, which transfers the blood to the right ventricle, where it is then pumped through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs. In pulmonary circulation the pulmonary veins return oxygenated blood from the lungs to the left atrium, which empties into the left ventricle, completing the cycle of blood circulation. The arteries are perceived as carrying oxygenated blood to the tissues, while veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. This is true of the systemic circulation, by far the larger of the two circuits of blood in the body, which transports oxygen from the heart to the tissues of the body. However, in pulmonary circulation, the arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs, and veins return blood from the lungs to the heart. The difference between veins and arteries is their direction of flow (out of the heart by arteries, returning to the heart for veins), not their oxygen content. In addition, deoxygenated blood that is carried from the tissues back to the heart for reoxygenation in systemic circulation still carries some oxygen, though it is considerably less than that carried by the systemic arteries or pulmonary veins.

Blood flows away from the heart via arteries, which branch and narrow into the arterioles, and then branch further still into the capillaries. After the tissue has been perfused, capillaries join and widen to become venules and then widen more to become veins, which return blood to the heart. Capillaries do not function on their own. The "capillary bed" is an interweaving network of capillaries supplying an organ. The more metabolically active the cells, the more capillaries they will require to supply nutrients and carry away waste products. A capillary bed can consist of two types of vessels: true capillaries which branch mainly from metarterioles and provide exchange between cells and the circulation. Secondly, capillary beds also consist of a vascular shunt which is a short vessel that directly connects the arteriole and venule at opposite ends of the bed. Metarterioles provide direct communication between arterioles and venules and are important in bypassing the bloodflow through the capillaries. The internal diameter of 8 m forces the red blood cells to partially fold into bullet-like shapes and to go into single file in order for them to pass through. Precapillary sphincters are rings of smooth muscles at the origin of true capillaries that regulate blood flow into true capillaries and thus control blood flow through a tissue. Capillaries are where all of the important exchanges happen in the circulatory system. The capillaries are a single cell in diameter to aid fast and easy diffusion of gases, sugars and other nutrients to surrounding tissues.

Functions of capillaries
Capillaries have no smooth muscle surrounding them and have a diameter less than that of red blood cells; a red blood cell is typically 7 micrometers outside diameter, capillaries typically 5 micrometers inside diameter. The red blood cells must distort in order to pass through the capillaries. These small diameters of the capillaries provide a relatively large surface area for the exchange of gases and nutrients.

What capillaries do
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In the lungs, carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen In the tissues, oxygen and carbon dioxide and nutrients and wastes are exchanged In the kidneys, wastes are released to be eliminated from the body In the intestine, nutrients are picked up, and wastes released

The arterial system is the higher-pressure portion of the circulatory system. Arterial pressure varies between the peak pressure during heart contraction, called the systolic pressure, and the minimum, or diastolic pressure between contractions, when the heart expands and refills. This pressure variation within the artery produces the pulse which is observable in any artery, and reflects heart activity. Arteries also aid the heart in pumping blood. Arteries carry blood away from the heart. Veins whereas keep blood flowing towards the heart. Except pulmonary arteries, which carry blood to the lungs for oxygenation, all arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the tissues that require oxygen.

Pulmonary arteries
Pulmonary arteries are the arteries of the pulmonary circulation, which is the portion of the cardiovascular system which carries deoxygenated blood away from the heart, to the lungs, and returns oxygenated blood back to the heart.

They carry deoxygenated blood that has just returned from the body to the heart towards the lungs, where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen.

Systemic arteries
Systemic arteries are the arteries of the systemic circulation, which is the part of the cardiovascular system which carries oxygenated blood away from the heart, to the body, and returns deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Systemic arteries can be subdivided into two types - muscular and elastic - according to the relative compositions of elastic and muscle tissue in their tunica media as well as their size and the makeup of the internal and external elastic lamina. The larger arteries (>10mm diameter) are generally elastic and the smaller ones (0.1-10mm) tend to be muscular. Systemic arteries deliver blood to the arterioles, and then to the capillaries, where nutrients and gasses are exchanged.

The Aorta
The aorta is the root systemic artery. It receives blood directly from the left ventricle of the heart via the aortic valve. As the aorta branches, and these arteries branch in turn, they become successively smaller in diameter, down to the arteriole. The arterioles supply capillaries which in turn empty into venules. The very first branches off of the aorta are the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle itself. These are followed by the branches off the aortic arch, namely the brachiocephalic artery, the left common carotid and the left subclavian arteries.

Arterioles, the smallest of the true arteries, help regulate blood pressure by the variable contraction of the smooth muscle of their walls, and deliver blood to the capillaries.

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