Pericardium: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 What is the Pericardium?
  • 0:47 Layers of the Pericardium
  • 1:22 What Does the Pericardium Do?
  • 2:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Did you know that your heart is surrounded by something called the pericardium? Learn all about the pericardium, including where it is located and how it functions in the body. Then take a quiz to check how well you understand the information.

What is the Pericardium?

Have you ever had the experience of buying meat and putting it in the freezer to store it for later? You may have double wrapped the meat, a method many people use to preserve freshness and avoid freezer burn, by first wrapping it in plastic and then placing it in a freezer bag, before putting it in the freezer.

This is really similar to how our hearts are packaged. Our hearts are contained in a sac known as the pericardium. The pericardium is a two-membrane sac that surrounds the heart. The outer membrane, known as the parietal pericardium, is like the freezer bag that contains the wrapped up meat. The inner membrane, known as the visceral pericardium, is a lot like the plastic wrap around the meat. Let's look at each membrane a little more.

Layers of the Pericardium

The parietal pericardium is attached to the diaphragm and is rather thick and loose around the heart. So this part of the pericardium doesn't actually touch the surface of the heart. The visceral pericardium, the inside later, is wrapped more tightly around the heart and contains two layers of its own. The outer layer of the visceral pericardium lines the inside of the parietal pericardium. The inner layer of the visceral pericardium tightly encloses the heart. Fluid called pericardial fluid exists between these two layers and helps the pericardium carry out a very important function.

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