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Frank-Starling law of the heart

The Frank-Starling law of the heart (also known as Starling's law or the Frank-Starling mechanism) states that the more the ventricle is filled with blood during diastole (end-diastolic volume), the greater the volume of ejected blood will be during the resulting systolic contraction (stroke volume).

This means that the force of contractions will increase as the heart is filled with more blood and is a direct consequence of the effect of an increasing load on a single muscle fiber. In particular, such increased load stretches further the myocardium and enhances the affinity of troponin C for Calcium, hence increasing the contractile force. The force that any single muscle fibre generates is proportional to the initial sarcomere length (known as preload), and the stretch on the individual fibres is related to the end-diastolic volume of the ventricle. In the human heart, maximal force is generated with an initial sarcomere length of 2.2 micrometers, a length which is rarely exceeded in the normal heart. Initial lengths larger or smaller than this optimal value will drop the force of the muscle owing to: less overlap of the thin and thick filaments for larger values and more overlap of the thin filaments for smaller values.

This can be seen most dramatically in the case of a premature ventricular contraction. The premature ventricular contraction causes early emptying of the left ventricle (LV) into the aorta. Since the next ventricular contraction will come at its regular time, the filling time for the LV increases, causing an increased LV end diastolic volume. Because of the Frank-Starling law, the next ventricular contraction will be more forceful, causing the ejection of the larger than normal volume of blood, and bringing the LV end-systolic volume back to baseline.

For example, during vasoconstriction the end diastolic volume increases, increasing preload, this will increase stroke volume. The heart will pump what it receives.

The above is true of healthy myocardium. In the failing heart, the more the myocardium is dilated, the weaker it can pump, as it then reverts to Laplace's law.


The law is named after the two physiologists, Otto Frank and Ernest Starling who first described it.

Long before the development of the sliding filament hypothesis and our understanding that active tension depends on the sarcomere's length, in 1914 Ernest Starling hypothesized that "the mechanical energy set free in the passage from the resting to the active state is a function of the length of the fiber." Therefore, the initial length of myocardial fibers determines the work done during the cardiac cycle.

See also

  • Starling equation
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frank-Starling_law_of_the_heart". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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