Loyola University Medical Education Network Atrioventricular canals

Figure 1

Recall that the proximal bulbus cordis gives rise to the right ventricle. Thus, blood flows from the primitive atrium to the left ventricle then to the right ventricle. There is no direct communication between the atria and the right ventricle even after the formation of the bulboventriclular loop. The atrioventricular canal must shift to the right in order to acheive communication to the right ventricle in addition to the left ventricle. During this shift the proximal bulbus widens and the bulboventricular flange begins to recede. Swellings of mesenchymal tissue, the endocardial cushions, appear on the borders of the atrioventricular canal. There are four cushions: inferior and superior (ventral and dorsal), left and right. The first appear before the latter. These swellings give the atrioventricular canal a "dog's bone" shape.

Figure 2

At approximately day 42 the superior and inferior cushions fuse forming a right and a left atrioventricular canal. The left atrium communicates with the left ventricle and the right atrium communicates with the right ventricle. The shifting process brings the conus cordis to lie superior to the interventricular foramen, which at this point, has not yet been obliterated. The fused endocardial cushions are also responsible for the closure of the ostium primum by fusing with the free edge of the septum primum. (See Late Development: Atrial partitioning for illustrations)

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John A. McNulty
Last Updated: April 14, 1996
Created: September 25, 1995