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Surface anatomy of the heart

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name and define the surfaces and borders of the heart.
  2. Describe the landmarks and parts of each surface.
  3. Describe the anatomical relations of each surface of the heart.

Watch videos

The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body by circulating it through the vascular system. It sits in the middle mediastinum between the left and right lungs, anterior to the esophagus and posterior to the sternum. It presents five surfaces:

  • Anterior (sternocostal) surface, which lies adjacent to the body of sternum, sternocostal muscles and the third to sixth costal cartilages.
  • Inferior (diaphragmatic) surface, which sits mainly on the central tendon of the diaphragm.
  • Left and right (pulmonary) surfaces, which face the left and right lungs, respectively. The left surface involves the lateral portion of the left ventricle as well as a small part of the left atrium/auricle, while the right surface is found between the superior vena cava and the intrathoracic part of the inferior vena cava.
  • Posterior surface (base), which lies anterior to the principal bronchi and esophagus.

The heart also presents four borders:

  • The right border is a line that runs mainly over the right atrium, extending between the superior and inferior vena cava, and over a small portion of the right ventricle.
  • The left (obtuse) border separates the left and anterior surfaces, mainly formed by the left ventricle and part of the left auricle.
  • The superior border is a line that goes over the roots of the aorta and pulmonary trunk and a small portion of the left and right auricle.
  • The inferior (acute) border extends along the right ventricle and part of the left ventricle at its apex.

Watch the video below to find out more about the surface anatomy of the heart.

Watch the next video to get a closer look at the surface landmarks seen on the posteroinferior view!

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the videos, solidify your understanding of the surfaces of the heart by testing yourself with the following quiz.

To challenge yourself further, customize your own quiz about the heart by picking the topics you want to be quizzed on yourself. You can also save your selection and quiz yourself later!

Download the following PDF worksheets and identify the anatomical features of the heart!


Browse atlas

Take a look at the individual landmarks and related structures of the  of the heart in the atlas galleries below!


Key points about the surfaces of the heart
Anterior (sternocostal) surface Components: Right atrium, ⅔ right ventricle, ⅓ left ventricle
: Right auricle of heart, coronary sulcus, anterior interventricular sulcus, cardiac apex
: Right coronary artery, anterior interventricular artery/vein, anterior veins of right ventricle
: Sternum, sternocostal muscles, third to sixth costal cartilages
Inferior (diaphragmatic) surface Components: Left ventricle, right ventricle
: Inferior (posterior) interventricular groove, atrioventricular groove, cardiac apex
: Inferior (posterior) interventricular artery, middle cardiac vein, coronary sinus, inferior vein of right ventricle
: Sits mainly the central tendon of diaphragm, and a small portion of left muscular part of diaphragm
Left (pulmonary) surface Components: Left ventricle, small part of left atrium and left auricle of heart
: Atrioventricular groove
: Circumflex artery, great cardiac vein, left marginal vein
: Left pericardiacophrenic neurovascular bundle, left pleura/lung
Right (pulmonary) surface Components: Right atrium
: Sulcus terminalis
: Intrathoracic part of inferior vena cava, superior vena cava, right pleura/lung
Posterior surface (base) Components: Right atrium, left atrium
: Coronary sinus, left and right pulmonary veins, vena cavae
: Principal bronchi, esophagus

Well done!

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