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EMS Resources

Emergencies: Human Body Basics

Level 3

Human Body Basics EMT Refresher Course EMSNeeds.com Continuing Education

Overview | Assessment | Treatment | Roles


Human Body Basics EMT Refresher Course

In this Human Body Basics course you will earn 2 CE hours. Since all levels of EMS are technically first responders, this course is for all levels of continuing education credit.

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the anatomy of the respiratory system.
  • Describe the function of the respiratory system.
  • Describe the anatomy of the circulatory system.
  • Describe the function of the circulatory system.
  • Describe the anatomy of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Describe the function of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Describe the components of the nervous system.
  • Describe the function of the nervous system.

References for content used by permission are on the left side under "EMS Resources." A technical :word: when clicked instantly accesses the EMS glossary online.

There are four sections: Overview, Assessment, Treatment, and Roles. Take the section tests in order by clicking the Take Test button. Your results are saved if you are interrupted. Then do the next section—no lost time or effort with mini-test sections!

CE for all levels

To perform an adequate patient assessment, the First Responder must be familiar with the normal anatomy of the human body and topographical terminology. This information will provide a solid cornerstone on which the First Responder can build the essentials of quality patient assessment and management. First Responders must have a basic level of knowledge concerning the human body. To accurately communicate to other health professionals, the First Responder must be able to identify topographic anatomy.


  • Diaphragm - a thin muscle separating the abdomen from the chest, controlling inhale and exhale of air into the lungs.
  • Larnyx - voice box; cartilage that connects the pharynx with the trachea.
  • Nasopharynx - air passageway immediately below the nose; an upper division of the pharynx.
  • Oropharynx - air passage at the back of the mouth; a lower division of the pharynx.
  • Pharynx - open space above the larnyx below the nose and mouth shaped like a horse shoe; the roof of the mouth separates the nasopharynx from the oropharnyx.
  • Trachea - airway from the lower larnyx where it divides into the right and left bronchi.
  • Xiphoid process - the lowest portion of the sternum and the landmark for determining hand position for chest compressions.

Emergency Stop


The Respiratory System

The respiratory system delivers oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide from the body. The components/anatomy include the:

  • Nose and mouth
  • Pharynx (Oropharynx and Nasopharynx)
  • Epiglottis - a leaf-shaped structure that prevents food and liquid from entering the trachea during swallowing
  • Windpipe (trachea)
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Lungs
  • Diaphragm

To understand the physiology, the diaphragm moves down, and the chest moves out, drawing air into the lungs (inhalation). There is an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. The diaphragm moves up causing air to exit the lungs (exhalation).

In infants and children, there are specific anatomy and physiology considerations. All structures are smaller and more easily obstructed than in adults. Infants' and children's tongues take up proportionally more space in the mouth than adults. The trachea is also more flexible in infants and children. Be aware that the primary cause of cardiac arrest in infants and children is an uncorrected respiratory problem.

The Musculoskeletal System

The skeletal system functions to give the body shape and protect vital internal organs. Components of the skeletal system include the:

  • Skull - houses and protects the brain
  • Face
  • Spinal Column
  • Thorax (Ribs and Breastbone) The Xiphoid process is the lowest portion of the sternum and the landmark for determining hand position for chest compressions.
  • Pelvis
  • Lower extremities (thigh or femur; knee cap or patella; shin or tibia and fibula; ankle; feet; toes)
  • Upper extremities (shoulder or collar bone and shoulder blade; upper arm or humerus; forearm or radius and ulna; wrist; hand; fingers)
  • Joints - where bones connect to other bones.

The muscular system functions in the same way to give the body shape and protect internal organs as well as provide for movement. The components are voluntary and involutary.

  • The voluntary (skeletal) muscles are attached to the bones and are under the control of the nervous system and brain that can be contracted and relaxed by the will of the individual. These muscles are responsible for movement.
  • The involuntary (smooth) muscles are found in the walls of the tubular structures of the gastrointestinal tract and urinary system and also in the blood vessels and bronchi. Cardiac muscles are found only in the heart. These muscles can tolerate interruption of blood supply for only very short periods.

The Nervous System

The nervous system functions to control the voluntary and involuntary activity of the body. It provides for higher mental function (thoughts, emotions). Components of the anatomy are the:

  • Central nervous system
    • Brain - located within the cranium
    • Spinal cord - located within the spinal column
  • Peripheral nervous system
    • Sensory - carries information from the body to the brain and spinal cord
    • Motor - carries information from the brain and spinal cord to the body

Skin functions to protect the body from the environment, bacteria and other organisms and helps regulate the temperature of the body; prevents dehydration; senses heat, cold, touch, pressure and pain; and transmits this information to the brain and spinal cord.

The Circulatory System

The circulartory systems functions to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and remove waste products from the tissues. Components of the anatomy include the:


Heart valves prevent back flow of blood. The heart is composed of two parts:

  • Atrium - The right side receives blood from the veins of the body and the left receives blood from the lungs.
  • Ventricle - The right side pumps blood to the lungs and the left pumps blood to the body.


Arteries carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. The major arteries are listed below:

  • Carotid - Major artery of the neck. Pulsations can be palpated on either side of the neck.
  • Femoral -(i) Major artery of the thigh. Pulsations can be palpated in the groin area (the crease between the abdomen and thigh).
  • Radial - Major artery of the lower arm. Pulsations can be palpated at palm side of the wrist thumb-side.
  • Brachial -An artery of the upper arm. Pulsations can be palpated on the inside of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder.


Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that connect arteries to veins and are found in all parts of the body. They allow for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.


Veins are vessels that carry blood back to the heart


Blood is the fluid of the circulatory system that carries oxygen and carbon dioxide.

The physiology of the circulation system starts when the left ventricle contracts, sending a wave of blood through the arteries. Pulse can be felt anywhere an artery passes near the skin surface and over a bone (carotid, femoral, radial, and brachial.



neck xray




Circulation System




heart rhythm






Circulatory System

There are no questions for this section. Click the Take Test button of this section and then go to the next section.
Roles and Responsibilities

First Responders must identify the ABCs first:

  • Air
  • Breathing
  • Circulation

By knowing the key terms and physiology of the human body, accurate and timely interventions occur.

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