Relations between movement of the atrioventricular ring and changes in left atrial and ventricular dimensions were studied by echocardiography and compared with apexcardiography and Doppler mitral flow velocity traces in 20 healthy controls and in patients with left ventricular hypertrophy (n = 28) or dilatation (n = 16). During left ventricular systole the atrioventricular ring, a structure common to ventricle and atrium, moved towards the ventricular apex, thus increasing left atrial volume. This action matched pulmonary venous return because it was in phase with the transverse left atrial dimension measured from aortic root to posterior left atrial wall. During early diastole, the mitral ring moved rapidly towards the atrium as transmitral flow accelerated. This requires a force directed from ventricle to atrium, likely to be the result of elastic recoil arising from compression of the ventricular myocardium or stretching of the atrial myocardium during ventricular systole. Two additional mechanisms of ventricular filling with atrial systole were recognised: (a) an increase in ventricular volume as the atrioventricular ring moved upwards and (b) transverse left ventricular expansion by pressure driven transmitral flow. The former is undetectable by Doppler from the apex; it accounted for 10% of ventricular filling in the healthy controls, but for significantly less in those with ventricular dilatation. In left ventricular hypertrophy, left ventricular filling was maintained by both mechanisms compensating for the reduced increase in volume early in diastole. Interactions between the atrium and ventricle are functionally important during ventricular systole, early diastole, and in atrial systole. They are not included in the traditional separation of atrial function into reservoir, conduit, and pump functions.
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