The blood flow of the heart is something you will have to learn in nursing school (it’s inevitable). When I was in nursing school I hated learning about the heart and promised myself that I would never enter into cardiology. Well, to make a long story short, I entered into cardiology and have never left it. I learned to heart the heart.
In this article, I am going to show you how to easily remember the blood flow of the heart. I have yet to find a good mnemonic to help with this (if you know one please feel free to share it in the comments). I found that learning the blood flow of the heart is best done by actually visualizing how the heart is set-up and how it flows through the muscle to the body.
Here is a basic drawing of the heart. We will start on the right side and work our way to the left. Note on the drawing are blue arrows which represent un-oxygenated blood flowing into the heart, and red arrows which represent oxygenated blood flowing out of the heart to the organs and brain.
Picture of Blood Flow of the Heart
Blood flows through the heart in 12 easy steps. Always remember that it must flow through 6 areas on the right side and then 6 areas on the left side (this equals 12 steps). For better illustration, look at the picture below and note how the right and left side are separated.
The right side is in blue and the left side is in red. Study Tip: When you are having to memorize this for a test, think of the blood flow like this: There are 12 steps, 6 for the right and 6 for the left.
Right Side of the Heart (Goal is to get the blood to the LUNGS so it can become oxygenated)
1. The un-oxygenated blood (this is blood that has been “used-up” by your body that needs to be resupplied with oxygen) enters to the heart through the SUPERIOR AND INFERIOR VENA CAVA.
2. Blood enters into the RIGHT ATRIUM
3. Then it is squeezed through the TRICUSPID VALVE
4. Blood then enters into the RIGHT VENTRICLE
5. Then it is squeezed into the PULMONIC VALVE
6. Blood is then shot-up through the PULMONARY ARTERY and then enters into the lungs for some oxygen
Study Tip: Since the goal of the right side is to get blood to the lungs always remember that the pulmonic valve and pulmonary artery will be on the right side since it is associated with the lungs. Remember in medical terminology pulmon means lungs. This will help you keep from getting confused with the left side of the heart.
Left Side of the Heart (Goal is to get the richly, oxygenated blood to the body to feed the brain, tissue, muscles, organs etc.)
7. Blood enters from the lungs through the PULMONARY VEIN
8. Blood then enters into the LEFT ATRIUM
9. Down through the BICUSPID VALVE (also called mitral valve or AV valve by some people but are all the same thing)
10. Then blood is squeezed into the LEFT VENTRICLE
11. Up through the AORTIC VALVE
12. Lastly up through the AORTA, where it pumped throughout the body
Many people get confused on if the blood enters the tricuspid or bicuspid valve first. Remember this saying, “First always try, before you buy”. By remember this phrase, you will remember that the tricuspid(try) is before the bicuspid (buy) valve.
Also, don’t left the atriums and ventricles mess you up either. Try to remember that A is before V in the alphabet so atriums (which starts with the letter A) is above the ventricles (which starts with the letter V).
Quiz on Blood Flow of the Heart
Now test your knowledge on the blood flow of the heart by taking this quiz. In addition, if you need further explanations and a demonstration on the blood flow, be sure to watch this video with Sarah BSN, RN, who does a clever job on explaining heart blood flow.