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Question Video: Recalling the Organs of the Hepatic Portal Circulatory System Biology

Which organs are involved in the hepatic portal circulation pathway?

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Video Transcript

Which organs are involved in the hepatic portal circulation pathway? (A) The lungs and the stomach. (B) The heart and the small intestine. (C) The liver and the organs of the digestive system. (D) The kidneys and the heart. Or (E) the heart and the organs of the respiratory system.

Let’s begin by looking at the major circulation pathways within the human circulatory system. You may remember that there are two major circulation pathways in the body: the pulmonary circulation system and the systemic circulation system. The functions of these two pathways are indicated by their names. The word “pulmonary” refers to the lungs. The pulmonary circulation system is responsible for transporting deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs so that it can be oxygenated and then back to the heart. The word “systemic,” on the other hand, describes anything relating to the whole body. The systemic circulation pathway is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood from the heart to almost all of the organs of the body and then deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

This question asks us about a different circulation pathway called the hepatic portal circulation pathway. Just like the other two, the name of this pathway gives us a clue about its function. What do you think the word “hepatic” means? The word “hepatic” derives from the Greek term used to describe anything relating to the liver. The hepatic portal system is a special circulatory pathway, shown here in green, that links the liver to the organs of the digestive system. Let’s learn a little bit more about why this pathway is so important.

The blood flowing away from most organs of the body is delivered directly back to the heart through two large veins called the superior and inferior vena cava. The organs of the digestive system, however, are an exception to this rule. Before being delivered back to the heart, the blood flowing away from the digestive system is first transported to the liver through the hepatic portal vein. The liver is very important for digestive and metabolic functions, like storing glucose and producing bile to help break down fats. Furthermore, the liver is responsible for detoxification, which is the conversion of toxic molecules into less harmful ones.

In fact, the liver performs some of the most crucial functions in the body. Because the functioning of the liver is so important for survival, it requires a great deal of nourishment. This is one of the reasons why the nutrient-rich blood from the digestive system is transported to the liver first. The blood flowing away from the digestive system might also carry toxic substances that the liver needs to detoxify before they enter the general bloodstream. Once blood has been processed in the liver, it eventually flows into the inferior vena cava and then into the heart to deliver nutrient-rich blood to the rest of the organs of the body.

We can now answer our question correctly. We are asked to identify which organs are involved in the hepatic portal circulation pathway. And the correct answer is (C), the liver and the organs of the digestive system.

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