Crick SJ, Sheppard MN, Ho SY, Gebstein L, Anderson RH. Anatomy of the pig heart: comparisons with normal human cardiac structure. J Anat. 1998 Jul;193 ( Pt 1)(Pt 1):105-19

PMID: 9758141


Transgenic technology has potentially solved many of the immunological difficulties of using pig organs to support life in the human recipient. Nevertheless, other problems still remain. Knowledge of cardiac anatomy of the pig (Sus scrofa) is limited despite the general acceptance in the literature that it is similar to that of man. A qualitative analysis of porcine and human cardiac anatomy was achieved by gross examination and dissection of hearts with macrophotography. The porcine organ had a classic 'Valentine heart' shape, reflecting its location within the thorax and to the orientation of the pig's body (unguligrade stance). The human heart, in contrast, was trapezoidal in silhouette, reflecting man's orthograde posture. The morphologically right atrium of the pig was characterised by the tubular shape of its appendage (a feature observed on the left in the human heart). The porcine superior and inferior caval veins opened into the atrium at right angles to one another, whereas in man the orifices were directly in line. A prominent left azygous vein (comparable to the much reduced left superior caval or oblique vein in man) entered on the left side of the pig heart and drained via the coronary sinus. The porcine left atrium received only 2 pulmonary veins, whereas 4 orifices were generally observed in man. The sweep between the inlet and outlet components of the porcine right ventricle was less marked than in man, and a prominent muscular moderator band was situated in a much higher position within the porcine right ventricle compared with that of man. The apical components of both porcine ventricles possessed very coarse trabeculations, much broader than those observed in the human ventricles. In general, aortic-mitral fibrous continuity was reduced in the outlet component of the porcine left ventricle, with approximately two-thirds of the aortic valve being supported by left ventricular musculature. Several potentially significant differences exist between porcine and human hearts. It is important that these differences are considered as the arguments continue concerning the use of transgenic pig hearts for xenotransplantation.