Cardiac Output - Circulation
The cardiac output can be determined in a number of ways. The most common method is the Fick's principle. A. Fick a German physiologist in 1870 described a simple method of calculating cardiac output from measurement of oxygen consumption (or carbon dioxide production) and the difference between oxygen (or carbon dioxide) contents of blood entering and leaving the heart.
The volume of blood ejected by each beat of the heart is the stroke volume. The mean stroke volume is determined by dividing cardiac output by heart rate. In other words, cardiac output can be calculated if we know the values of heart rate and stroke volume. Therefore, cardiac output can be increased by increasing either the heart frequency or the stroke volume or both. However, in mammals there may be little change in stroke volume if cardiac output is to be altered, major adjustments are made in the heart rate. The distribution of blood to the various organs of the human body is given in Table You can see from the Table that kidneys, liver, heart and brain make up only 5% of the total body weight but receive more than half of the total cardiac output. Stroke volume can also be defined as the difference in volume of blood before and after contraction. Two factors influence stroke volume, one is the hormone adrenaline (epinephrine) which increases contractions thus forcing a larger volume of - blood out of the ventricles in a single stroke. The other is the amount of blood present in the ventricles before contraction.
If the returning venous blood to the heart is increased, then ventricles will be filled with more blood and following contraction more blood will be ejected out. This relationship between cardiac output and increased venous volume was discovered by the English physiologist Ernest H. Starling. This relationship will be further discussed when we talk of blood flow during exercise.