How to dissect a heart for an anatomy class

Written by cameron holmes
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How to dissect a heart for an anatomy class
Explore the basic structure of a sheep heart. (scalpel 6 image by chrisharvey from

Studying the anatomy of a animal heart requires direct dissection. Dissecting a heart can be a valuable learning experience because you get to see, up front, the important structures that keep a heart working. In a classroom setting, it is best to use a large enough heart, such as a sheep or a lamb, to view each structure clearly. There are several parts help the heart function. Exploring the heart's most basic structure--its vessels, the aorta and pulmonary artery is a good start.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Safety gear
  • Dissecting tray
  • Four mini flags
  • Marker
  • Blunt metal probe
  • Scalpel

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  1. 1

    Create a clean work space on a sturdy table. Put on safety equipment such as lab coat, goggles and gloves before dissecting.

  2. 2

    Place the heart on a dissecting tray. Situate the heart so that it faces your right side.

  3. 3

    Identify the structure of heart's blood vessels, aorta, and pulmonary artery before dissecting. Use small flags to label structures by name.

  4. 4

    Dot a line down the middle of the heart, also known as the superior vena cava region. Locate and flag the aorta, or the top tubelike structure on the front of the heart. Use a blunt metal probe to explore the blood vessels leading in and out of the heart's chamber. Turn the heart over to label the pulmonary artery, which takes the blood out of the right ventricle. This artery is a tubelike vessel that sits to the left of the aorta.

  5. 5

    Insert your dissecting scalpel into the superior vena cava, slicing through the wall of the right atrium and ventricle. Separate the two sides. Once inside, view the papillary muscles by tendons called the chordae tendinae.

  6. 6

    Next, turn the heart over and insert a probe into the pulmonary artery. Make another incision down the middle of the artery, where you can view inside, three small membranous pockets.

  7. 7

    Insert a probe into the aorta to determine how and where it connects to the left ventricle. Make a small incision through the aorta to examine its contents; the aortic semilunar valveto are three small membranes used to prevent blood from flowing back into the left ventricle.

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