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16.1: Location of the Heart

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    The human heart is located within the thoracic cavity, medially between the lungs in the space known as the mediastinum. Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) shows the position of the heart within the thoracic cavity. Within the mediastinum, the heart is separated from the other mediastinal structures by a tough membrane known as the pericardium, or pericardial sac, and sits in its own space called the pericardial cavity. The dorsal surface of the heart lies near the bodies of the vertebrae, and its anterior surface sits deep to the sternum and costal cartilages. The great veins, the superior and inferior venae cavae, and the great arteries, the aorta and pulmonary trunk, are attached to the superior surface of the heart, called the base. The base of the heart is located at the level of the third costal cartilage, as seen in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\). The inferior tip of the heart, the apex, lies just to the left of the sternum between the junction of the fourth and fifth ribs near their articulation with the costal cartilages. The right side of the heart is deflected anteriorly, and the left side is deflected posteriorly. It is important to remember the position and orientation of the heart when placing a stethoscope on the chest of a patient and listening for heart sounds, and also when looking at images taken from a midsagittal perspective. The slight deviation of the apex to the left is reflected in a depression in the medial surface of the inferior lobe of the left lung, called the cardiac notch.

    This diagram shows the location of the heart in the thorax.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Position of the Heart in the Thorax The heart is located within the thoracic cavity, medially between the lungs in the mediastinum. It is about the size of a fist, is broad at the top, and tapers toward the base. (CC-BY-4.0, OpenStax, Human Anatomy)

    This page titled 16.1: Location of the Heart is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by OpenStax.

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