A plumber's guide to the cardiovascular system. Academic Article uri icon


  • Blood flow through the cardiovascular system is governed by the same physical rules that govern the flow of water through domestic plumbing. Using this analogy in a teaching laboratory, a model of the cardiovascular system constructed of pumps and pipes was used to demonstrate the basic interactions of pressure, flow, and resistance in a regulated system, with student volunteers providing the operational actions and regulatory components. The model was used to validate predictions and explore solutions prompted by student discussion. This interactive teaching laboratory provides an engaging experiential exercise that demonstrates regulation of flow and pressure in an intact cardiovascular system with apposite changes in heart rate and resistance. In addition, the system provides strong clinical correlates and illustrates how that regulated system responds to challenges such as heart failure, inappropriate vasodilation, and hemorrhage. The results demonstrate that, with limited practice, the instructor can effectively guide the students to reliably reproduce physiologically appropriate results.

published proceedings

  • Adv Physiol Educ

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Washburn, S. E., & Stewart, R. H.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Washburn, Shannon E||Stewart, Randolph H

publication date

  • June 2020