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Keywords:

  • embryo;
  • heart;
  • human;
  • outflow tract;
  • septation

Abstract

The developmental anatomy of the ventricular outlets and intrapericardial arterial trunks is a source of considerable confusion. First, major problems exist because of the multiple names and definitions used to describe this region of the heart as it develops. Second, there is no agreement on the boundaries of the described components, nor on the number of ridges or cushions to be found dividing the outflow tract, and the pattern of their fusion. Evidence is also lacking concerning the role of the fused cushions relative to that of the so-called aortopulmonary septum in separating the intrapericardial components of the great arterial trunks. In this review, we discuss the existing problems, as we see them, in the context of developmental and postnatal morphology. We concentrate, in particular, on the changes in the nature of the wall of the outflow tract, which is initially myocardial throughout its length. Key features that, thus far, do not seem to have received appropriate attention are the origin, and mode of separation, of the intrapericardial portions of the arterial trunks, and the formation of the walls of the aortic and pulmonary valvar sinuses. Also as yet undetermined is the formation of the free-standing muscular subpulmonary infundibulum, the mechanism of its separation from the aortic valvar sinuses, and its differentiation, if any, from the muscular ventricular outlet septum.