What is the pulmonary artery?
The pulmonary artery, which is one of the great arteries and is sometimes referred to as the main pulmonary artery or pulmonary trunk, is a major blood vessel in the heart through which blood is transported to the lungs from the right ventricle.
While most arteries transport oxygenated blood to different parts of the body, the pulmonary artery delivers de-oxygenated blood to the right and left lungs, making it rather unique. Once blood is oxygenated in the lungs, it returns to the heart by way of the pulmonary veins.
What does the pulmonary artery look like?
The pulmonary trunk is wide, but it isn’t very long. In the average person, it has a length of approximately two inches (five centimeters) and a width of about one-point-two inches (three centimeters).
Beginning at the right ventricle’s base, it extends up toward the aorta and splits into two pulmonary arteries that branch out underneath the aortic arch. The left pulmonary artery delivers deoxygenated blood to the left lung. The right pulmonary artery transports de-oxygenated blood to the right lung.
What is the pulmonary artery’s function? How does it function?
The function of the pulmonary artery is to facilitate the flow of oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs. During the cardiac cycle, so-called ‘blue blood’ (blood without oxygen) returns to the right ventricle to be transported back to the right and left lungs for oxygenation.
When the right ventricle contracts, blood is fed into the pulmonary trunk via the pulmonary valve. It then passes through the two pulmonary arteries into the lungs. Once blood is oxygenated, it returns to the left ventricle via the pulmonary veins, left atrium, and mitral valve and is delivered to the body.
What can go wrong with the pulmonary arteries?
Several diseases can affect the pulmonary arteries, the most common of which is pulmonary hypertension. Adults with this condition have abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries, which over time can weaken the right ventricle and cause problematic symptoms and complications. Heart failure, pulmonary embolism, and airway diseases are often the cause of this disease.
Other problems that can affect the pulmonary arteries include pulmonary stenosis and pulmonary atresia, both of which are congenital disorders that are present from or before birth.