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Pushmi-Pullyu and the Right Atrium 

Pushmi-Pullyu and the Right Atrium
Pushmi-Pullyu and the Right Atrium

James R. Munis

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date: 09 May 2021

What does right atrial pressure (PRA) do to cardiac output (CO)? On the one hand, we've been taught that PRA represents preload for the right ventricle. That is, the higher the PRA, the greater the right ventricular output (and, therefore, CO). This is simply an application of Starling's law to the right side of the heart. On the other hand, we've been taught that PRA represents the downstream impedance to venous return (VR) from the periphery. That is, the higher the PRA, the lower the VR, and therefore, the lower the CO. The point of intersection between the 2 curves defines a unique blood flow rate, which is both CO and VR at the same time.

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