What is the Left Ventricle?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The left ventricle is one of the four chambers of the heart and it has many distinct features. Its principle function is to receive oxygenated blood from the left atrium, through the mitral valve. It will then pump this blood into the aortic valve. From there, the blood flows into the aorta and then to the rest of the body. With the rest of the circulatory system, the left ventricle is thus responsible for getting oxygenated blood to all the tissues, and it is often thought of as one of the most important parts of the heart. It also may be called the main pumping chamber since it well exceeds the size and is much more muscular than the right ventricle.

One of the four chambers of the heart is known as the left ventricle.
One of the four chambers of the heart is known as the left ventricle.

Many people have the mistaken impression that the ventricles are the top chambers of the heart, but actually these pumping chambers are located below the atria. Drawings of the heart frequently depict the left ventricle and right ventricle as being similarly sized, but in the normal heart, the left ventricle is bigger by a considerable amount. The borders within the heart of this chamber are the mitral valve, which is between the left atrium and ventricle, and the aortic valve, which arises from the top of the ventricle and separates it from the aorta. The ventricle is also separated from the right ventricle by a thick wall called the septum.

Some congenital heart disorders affect the size of the left ventricle.
Some congenital heart disorders affect the size of the left ventricle.

As mentioned, the left ventricle is an extremely important part of the circulatory system. Its muscularity is required so that the heart can contract and relax, allowing for blood to both enter it and leave it in an efficient way. Any inefficiency or morphological problems with this part of the heart can cause significant problems.

Many people with a congenital disorder that affects the left ventricle will eventually require a heart transplant.
Many people with a congenital disorder that affects the left ventricle will eventually require a heart transplant.

There are some congenital heart disorders that affect sizing of the left ventricular and the most potentially damaging is hypoplastic left ventricle. In this condition the chamber is too small and cannot adequately perform its work. This condition is so severe that it is usually not reparable with surgery, though there are palliative surgeries that are increasingly successful, like the Fontan surgery. Many people who have this condition do require a heart transplant at some point.

High blood pressure may cause left ventricular hypertrophy.
High blood pressure may cause left ventricular hypertrophy.

Other problems may be congenital or acquired. Sometimes the left ventricle enlarges (hypertrophy), and this means the muscles work less efficiently. This too may be a condition that requires transplant, or some other surgeries like removal of part of the ventricular muscle have been used with some success. Defects or dysfunction in the left atria, mitral valve or aortic valve may also impair ventricular function and require repair. It’s fair to state that any problem anywhere in the heart may create damage to the left ventricle, since the heart operates as a system and depends on all parts to work.

Problems located anywhere in the heart may create damage to the left ventricle.
Problems located anywhere in the heart may create damage to the left ventricle.
An irregular heart rate may be a symptom of a damaged left ventricle.
An irregular heart rate may be a symptom of a damaged left ventricle.
Obese individuals are at a high risk of developing cardiac hypertrophy.
Obese individuals are at a high risk of developing cardiac hypertrophy.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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