Skip to Main Content


The student understands how central venous pressure can be used to assess circulatory states and how venous return, cardiac output, and central venous pressure are interrelated:


  • Describes the overall arrangement of the systemic circulation and identifies the primary functional properties of each of its major components.
  • Defines mean circulatory filling pressure and states the primary factors that determine it.
  • Defines venous return and explains how it is distinguished from cardiac output.
  • States the reason why cardiac output and venous return must be equal in the steady state.
  • Lists the factors that control venous return.
  • Describes the relationship between central venous pressure and venous return and draws the normal venous return curve.
  • Defines peripheral venous pressure.
  • Lists the factors that determine peripheral venous pressure.
  • Predicts the shifts in the venous return curve that occur with altered blood volume and altered venous tone.
  • Describes how the output of the left heart pump is matched to that of the right heart pump.
  • Draws the normal venous return and cardiac output curves on a graph and describes the significance of the point of curve intersection.
  • Predicts how normal venous return, cardiac output, and central venous pressure will be altered with any given combination of changes in cardiac sympathetic tone, peripheral venous sympathetic tone, or circulating blood volume.
  • Identifies possible conditions that result in abnormally high or low central venous pressure.


Once one has learned the basic facts concerning the individual pieces of the cardiovascular system, it is important to step back, take a broad view, and see how those pieces interact in the operation of the intact system.


As illustrated in Figure 8–1, the cardiovascular system is a closed hydraulic circuit that includes the heart, arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins.1 The venous side of this system is often conceptually separated into two different compartments: (1) a large and diverse peripheral section (the peripheral venous compartment) and (2) a smaller intrathoracic section that includes the vena cavae and the right atrium (the central venous compartment). Each of the segments of this circuit has a distinctly different role to play in the overall operation of the system because of inherent differences in anatomical volume, resistance to flow, and compliance that are summarized in Table 8–1.

Figure 8–1.
Graphic Jump Location

Major functionally distinct components of the systemic cardiovascular circuit.

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 8-1. Typical Properties of the Major Components of the Systemic Cardiovascular Circuit*

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.