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Atrial Development

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Interatrial septal development. Right atrium and sinus venosus Right atrium and pulmonary veins Fate of sinus venosus Development of the left atrium Smooth vs pectinate parts of the atria.





Development of Interatrial Septum:



. Common congenital cardiac anomalies mostly occur due to defects in the formation of these septae. In this lecture and its subsequent review, we discuss the high yield topic of atrial septation and development plus relevant congenital defect which can occur during this process.




1) It divides the primitive atria into a right and left atria.


2) During fetal life provides it provides a patent right to left shunt and ensures the shunt is not in the opposite direction of left to right shunt. During fetal life right to left shunts are essential for the survival of the fetus. A hallmark of the fetal circulation, which differentiates itfrom the adult circulation, is that the right atriumreceives the oxygenated blood from the placenta via the inferior vena cava. In an adult heart, the right side deals with the deoxygenated blood!


3) After birth, when there's no need a right to left shunt since the lungs have become functional, foramen ovaletends to close. At this point interatrial septum divides adult left and right atria into separate non-communicating chambers.






Initially the right and the left atria are actually one single chamber which is referred to Primitive Atrium. Sinus Venosus provides the Inflow in this primitive atrium. The primitiveatrium is divided into two separate left and right atria following the process of atrial septation. Atrial Septation is actually a series of events which involves 2 septae (Septum Primum & Septum Secundum) and 2 foraminae (Foramen Primum & Foramen Secundum) forming within the primitive atria, thereby dividing it into a right and left atrium.




From the roof of the primitive atrium a flexible and crescenteric shaped Septum Primum grows inferiorly towards the endocardial cushions. The initial defect in between the down growing septum primum and the endocardial cushions is referred to as foramen primum. Foramen Primum functions to allow shunting of blood from the right atrium to the left atrium






1) Foramen Primum is eventually obliterated when the inferior edge of the septum primum fuses with the endocardial cushions. Just before the foramen primum closes, multiple small secondary defects form within the upper wall of septum primum as result of apoptosis. These multiple small defects in the upper wall of septum primum coalesce into forming a single defect called the foramen secundum. Foramen secundum is formed before the foramen primum is closed, and it serves to maintain the very important function of reinforcing a right to left shunt of the oxygenated blood entering the right atrium via the inferior vena cava.


2) While the septum primum is undergoing these changes, from the roof of the atrium and just to the right of septum primum, a second crescentic shaped septum secundum starts developing.  As the septum secundumgrows downwards, it extends and obliterates most of the foramen secundum. The remaining part of foramensecundum which isn't obliterated by the septum secundum is referred to as Foramen Ovale. The function of foramen ovale is the same as that of the foraminae primum and secundum, which was to maintain a right to left shunt.


3) It's important to remember that septum primum is a rather flexible structure compared to septum secundum which is a relatively rigid structure. This rather flexible property of the septum primum allows its inferior flap (which isn't covered by the septum secundum) to function as valve for foramen ovale. This valve allows the flow of blood from the right to left side thereby reinforcing the shunt, but it tends to disallow the backflow of the blood from the left atria to the right atria.


4) Septum Primum and Septum Secundum eventually fuse to form the interatrial septum. Most of the interatrial septum is formed from two septae (primum and secundum). However, the inferior part of the interatrial septum forms from a single septum (septum primum only), and hence this part is rather thinner compared to the rest of the atrial septae. This thinner part of the interatrial septum in the adult heart is referred to as Fossa Ovalis and is a major anatomical landmark of the adult right atrium. Fossa ovalis presents as a marked crescentic ridge on the medial wall of the right atrium.


5) Immediately after birth Foramen Ovale tends to close. After birth there's an increase in left atrial pressure. The above mentioned decreased right atrial and increased left atrial pressure changes result in closure of the foramen ovale after birth. 




PROBE PATENCY OF FORAMEN OVALE: A probe is passed from the right atrium into the left atrium to check whether the foramen ovale has closed or not. In cases where the probe can pass through into the left atrium, it means that septum secundum & septum primum have not fused completely together and hence the foramen ovale is still patent


FORAMEN SECUNDUM DEFECT/ SECUNDUM TYPE ASD: This is the most common type of ASD. It occurs due to excessive resorption of the septum primum and septum secundum. It usually presents with delayed clinical symptoms after the age of 30, before the age of 30 it's usually asymptomatic. Identified after thirty years of age due to Right ventricular hypertrophy




primum type atrial septal defects result due to a failure of the septum primum to fuse inferiorly with the endocardial cushions






1) COR TRICLOCULARE BI VENTRICULARE: It's basically a three chambered heart with one common atrium and two ventricles, thereby highlighting the situation where interatrial septum fails to develop. 


2) PREMATURE CLOSURE OF THE FORAMEN OVALE: As mentioned earlier that foramen ovale is supposed to remain patent until after birth. If however,foramen ovale closes early due to premature fusion of septae primum & secundum before birth, this can result in a hypertrophied right side of heart plus an underdeveloped left sided chambers.




Heart tube with its dilatations undergoes an S-shaped bending which results in an orientation where the outflow tract (truncus arteriosus) lies most anteriorly. Behind the truncus arteriosus is the primitive ventricle and still behind is the primitive atrium. On the posterior surface of the primitive atrium opens the sinus venosus along with its branches. Branches of sinus venosus are anterior cardinal vein, posterior cardinal vein and the common cardinal vein. Two vitelline and umbilical veins also drain into sinus venosus. Initially the sinus venosus drains into the middle of the posterior wall of primordial atrium, however due to flow and hemodynamic changes, sinus venosus starts growing towards the right side. Ultimately sinus venosus ends up opening at the posterior right end of the right atrium. Hemodynamic changes responsible for this right side shifting of sinus venosus are as following:


1) An anastomosis forms between the anterior cardinal veins of either side, and the blood starts flowing from the left to the right side.


2) Umbilical and vitelline veins on the left side start degenerating. This results in an increased blood flow into the right side as blood from the caudal part of the fetus is also shunted to the right side of the right atrium.


3) Eventually the right umbilical vein also degenerates, and the right vitelline vein starts increasing in calibre. Endresult of these hemodynamic changes is that sinus venosus shifts and starts growing on the right side. 


On the left side the remaining degenerating pieces of the sinus venosus become the coronary sinus. Right vitelline vein in future becomes the inferior vena cava. The common cardinal vein becomes the future superior vena cava.  All these changes contribute to an increase in the size of right atrium since sinus venosus= has also shifted there as part of its development. Anterior view of the right atrium shows that it's divided by the crista terminalis into a smooth and rough or trabeculated part. The trabeculated parts of right atrium and the right auricle are derived from the primitive atria. The smooth parts are derived from the primitive inflow tract which was sinus venosus. Crista terminalis is the landmark where parts of sinus venosus were absorbed into right atrium as parts of right atrial development. The lower part of the sinus venosus marks the valve of the inferior vena cava. Also there is an opening of coronary sinus which actually is the degenerated left sinus venosus draining into the right atrium.


DEVELOPMENT OF THE LEFT ATRIUM: Left atrial development is relatively not as complicated. Trabeculated part and the left auricle form a very small component of left atrium and they're derived from the primitive atrium. Majority of the left atrium is its smooth part which is derived from the primordial pulmonary trunk which gets absorbed as part of left atrial development. Primordial pulmonary trunk is actually a budding off of the left atrium. The primordial pulmonary turn initially grows and forms four branches. However, so much of the primordial pulmonary trunk is absorbed into the making of left atrium that its four branches end up opening directly into the left atrium.

In this video we will learn about :

1. Interatrial septum development. 

2. Right atrium and sinus venosus. 

3. Right atrium and pulmonary veins.

4. Development of left atrium.

5. Smooth vs pectinate part of atria. 

Following answers are created by ChatGPT. Occasionally the answer may be harmful, incorrect, false, misleading, incomplete, or limited in knowledge of world. Please contact your doctor for all healthcare decisions. Also, double check the answer provided by the AI below.


In addition to the presenter, following authors may have helped with the content writing, review, or approval:

  • Dr. Mobeen Syed

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Dr. Mobeen Syed

Dr. Mobeen Syed

Mobeen Syed is the CEO of DrBeen Corp, a modern online medical education marketplace. Mobeen is a medical doctor and a software engineer. He graduated from the prestigious King Edward Medical University Lahore. He has been teaching medicine since 1994. Mobeen is also a software engineer and engineering leader. In this role, Mobeen has run teams consisting of hundreds of engineers and millions of dollars of budgets. Mobeen loves music, teaching, and doing business. He lives in Cupertino CA.

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Cardiovascular System

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