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Cardiac Blood Flow

A Circulatory Story


Hollie L. Leavitt
Department of Biology
College of Western Idaho


This interrupted case study tells the story of a middle-aged female, “Josie,” who receives a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. In a conversation with her cardiologist, Josie asks questions about heart anatomy, blood circulation, and the valve issue that led to the development of her condition. Acting as her doctor, students provide explanations to Josie’s questions. The case is designed to thoroughly familiarize students with heart anatomy and how blood moves through the pulmonary and systemic circuits. It requires students to go beyond simple memorization of structures and pathways by having them draw connections between basic textbook information and a common disease. This case study was developed for students in a year-long anatomy and physiology course taught at a community college, but is also generally appropriate for first- or second-year university students, students in nursing or other professional programs, and high school students in honors or AP anatomy and physiology courses.


  • Describe basic heart anatomy (including chambers, valves, and connected blood vessels).
  • Understand the pathway blood takes through the heart.
  • Define the pulmonary and systemic circuits and describe the importance of each.
  • Explain the role of heart valves.
  • Define valve disease, including stenosis and regurgitation, and explain how it affects the heart’s workload.
  • Make connections between some of the common signs and symptoms associated with congestive heart failure and problems with blood flow caused by a weakened heart.


Heart; heart anatomy; cardiac blood flow; pulmonary circuit; systemic circuit; heart valves; heart failure; congestive heart failure

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Physiology  |   Nursing  |   Medicine (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Flow Through the Heart
    This video covers very basic heart anatomy as well as the pathway of blood through the heart and body. Running time: 7:50 min. Created by Rishi Desai. Produced by Khan Academy, 2012.