Where Does the Cardiac Output Go

If referring to the cardiac output of the right ventricle, there is only one place for it to go: the lungs. Said another way, 100 percent of the cardiac output from the right ventricle is destined for our lungs. However, the blood pumped out of the left ventricle has many destinations. Under resting and comfortable environmental conditions about 13 percent of the left ventricle's cardiac output goes to our brain, 4 percent goes to our heart, 20 to 25 percent goes to our kidneys, and 10 percent goes to our skin. The remaining cardiac output from the left ventricle (48 to 53 percent) will then go to the remaining tissue in our body, such as the digestive tract, liver, and pancreas.

During exercise, a greater proportion of this cardiac output is routed to working skeletal muscle. This requires some redistribution or stealing of blood routed to other less active areas at that time, such as our digestive tract. Contrarily, during a big meal and for a few hours afterward, a greater proportion of this cardiac output is routed to the digestive tract, which steals a portion of the blood directed to areas having no immediate need, such as skeletal muscle.

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