What is Ventricular Function?

Mary McMahon

Ventricular function is the operation of the ventricles of the heart, the pumping chambers that route blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. A doctor can use a number of tests to screen a patient for disorders of ventricular function and determine if the patient needs treatment to address heart problems. Usually a cardiologist interprets the test results and provides appropriate treatments to the patient, along with follow-up care to see if the patient's heart health improves.

Ventricular function is the action of the chambers of the heart that pump blood to the body.
Ventricular function is the action of the chambers of the heart that pump blood to the body.

The left ventricle delivers freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs and pushes it into the body's circulation, allowing it to bring nutrients and oxygen to cells from the scalp to the toes. The right ventricle pumps deoxygenated blood received from the body to the lungs, where the blood picks up oxygen. The ventricles need to coordinate with each other and the rest of the heart to pump blood efficiently and robustly.

Problems with ventricular function can include arrhythmias, where the heart beats out of rhythm, and blocks, where ventricles beat out of sync or not at all. Patients may also experience problems like myocardial atrophy, where the muscles of the heart weaken and cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body, or hypertrophy, where the muscle thickens in response to disease, and the heart has to work too hard to pump blood.

A doctor interested in a patient's ventricular function can listen to the heart, perform a physical examination, and interview the patient. The doctor may order some tests like medical imaging to see the heart in action, electrocardiograms to study electrical impulses in the heart, and x-rays to get a picture of the heart in the chest to check for obvious abnormalities. Testing may involve stress tests, where the patient's heart is under strain, as well as other challenges to see how the heart performs under pressure.

Patients may have problems with ventricular function because of congenital conditions or disease. If a doctor identifies a problem, she can decide if it is severe enough to require treatment. Treatments can include medications, mechanical pacing to control rhythm, and lifestyle changes. The doctor will also want to monitor the patient to see if he responds to treatment and to make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. If the condition grows worse over time, the doctor may need to consider more invasive measures to treat the patient's heart problem.

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