The Cardiac Lymphatic System: An Overview

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Under normal circumstances, the circulatory system and the blood should be sterile; the circulatory system has no normal microbiota.


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Because the system is closed, there are no easy portals of entry into the circulatory system for microbes. Microbes often gain access to the circulatory system through a break in the skin e. For example, microorganisms causing pneumonia or renal infection may enter the local circulation of the lung or kidney and spread from there throughout the circulatory network.


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  • If microbes in the bloodstream are not quickly eliminated, they can spread rapidly throughout the body, leading to serious, even life-threatening infections. Various terms are used to describe conditions involving microbes in the circulatory system. The term bacteremia refers to bacteria in the blood. If bacteria are reproducing in the blood as they spread, this condition is called septicemia.

    The presence of viruses in the blood is called viremia.

    The importance of the lymphatic system in vascular disease

    Microbial toxins can also be spread through the circulatory system, causing a condition termed toxemia. Microbes and microbial toxins in the blood can trigger an inflammatory response so severe that the inflammation damages host tissues and organs more than the infection itself. This counterproductive immune response is called systemic inflammatory response syndrome SIRS , and it can lead to the life-threatening condition known as sepsis.

    Sepsis is characterized by the production of excess cytokines that leads to classic signs of inflammation such as fever, vasodilation , and edema see Inflammation and Fever. In a patient with sepsis, the inflammatory response becomes dysregulated and disproportionate to the threat of infection. Critical organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys become dysfunctional, resulting in increased heart and respiratory rates, and disorientation. If not treated promptly and effectively, patients with sepsis can go into shock and die.

    Certain infections can cause inflammation in the heart and blood vessels. Inflammation of the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart, is called endocarditis and can result in damage to the heart valves severe enough to require surgical replacement. Inflammation of the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, is called pericarditis. Pericarditis and myocarditis can cause fluid to accumulate around the heart, resulting in congestive heart failure. Inflammation of blood vessels is called vasculitis. Although somewhat rare, vasculitis can cause blood vessels to become damaged and rupture; as blood is released, small red or purple spots called petechiae appear on the skin.

    If the damage of tissues or blood vessels is severe, it can result in reduced blood flow to the surrounding tissues. This condition is called ischemia , and it can be very serious.

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    In severe cases, the affected tissues can die and become necrotic; these situations may require surgical debridement or amputation. Like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a normal microbiota, and the large numbers of immune cells typically eliminate transient microbes before they can establish an infection. Only microbes with an array of virulence factors are able to overcome these defenses and establish infection in the lymphatic system. However, when a localized infection begins to spread, the lymphatic system is often the first place the invading microbes can be detected.

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    Infections in the lymphatic system also trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation of lymphatic vessels, called lymphangitis , can produce visible red streaks under the skin. Inflammation in the lymph nodes can cause them to swell. A swollen lymph node is referred to as a bubo , and the condition is referred to as lymphadenitis.

    Which of the following is located in the interstitial spaces within tissues and releases nutrients, immune factors, and oxygen to those tissues? Which of the following is where are most microbes filtered out of the fluids that accumulate in the body tissues?

    Lymphatic System and Immunity

    Skip to main content. Circulatory and Lymphatic System Infections. Search for:. Anatomy of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems Learning Objectives Describe the major anatomical features of the circulatory and lymphatic systems Explain why the circulatory and lymphatic systems lack normal microbiota Explain how microorganisms overcome defenses of the circulatory and lymphatic systems to cause infection Describe general signs and symptoms of disease associated with infections of the circulatory and lymphatic systems.

    Clinical Focus: Reda, Part 1 Reda is a year-old patient who has been diagnosed with metastatic inflammatory breast cancer. What is the most likely source of the microbes involved? The lymphatic system filters fluids that have accumulated in tissues before they are returned to the blood. A brief overview of this process is provided at this website. Think about It What is the main function of the lymphatic system?

    Think about It Why does the circulatory system have no normal microbiota? Explain why the presence of microbes in the circulatory system can lead to serious consequences. Key Concepts and Summary The circulatory system moves blood throughout the body and has no normal microbiota.

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    The lymphatic system moves fluids from the interstitial spaces of tissues toward the circulatory system and filters the lymph. It also has no normal microbiota. The circulatory and lymphatic systems are home to many components of the host immune defenses. Infections of the circulatory system may occur after a break in the skin barrier or they may enter the bloodstream at the site of a localized infection.

    The Lymphatic System

    Pathogens or toxins in the bloodstream can spread rapidly throughout the body and can provoke systemic and sometimes fatal inflammatory responses such as SIRS , sepsis , and endocarditis. Infections of the lymphatic system can cause lymphangitis and lymphadenitis. Multiple Choice Which term refers to an inflammation of the blood vessels? Show Answer Answer c. We have a dedicated site for Germany.

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    The heart is invested with a complex, intertwining network of blood and lymphatic vessels which, respectively, provide the cardiac tissue with oxygen and nutrients and eliminate excess fluid from the interstitium. The coronary blood vessels have been the focus of much investigation in the past few decades. On the other hand, the literature regarding the cardiac lymphatic vessels remains sparse, despite their important role in maintaining normal heart function.

    With this in mind, a better understanding of the cardiac lymphatic network and its ability to regulate fluid homeostasis within the heart could give us insight into developing therapies for the alleviation of several cardiac pathological conditions. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Biomedical Sciences Human Physiology. Free Preview. Provides in-depth coverage of the cardiac lymphatic vessels and the essential nature of their patterning and development Useful to a broad audience interested in cardiovascular medicine and physiology Gives readers vital information on the crucial role played by the cardiac lymphatic vessels in preserving normal heart function see more benefits.