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You are in Home >> Exams >> Syllabus: Primary, Final & FCAI

Primary syllabus: Physiology and biochemistry

Created: 7/9/2004

Candidates should have a good general understanding of human physiology, and recognise the need to apply physiological principles and knowledge to the clinical practice of anaesthesia.


Organisation of the human body and control of internal environment

Differences between neonates, infants, children, adults and the elderly

Function of cells; genes and their expression

Cell membrane characteristics; receptors

Protective mechanisms of the body


Acid base balance and buffers

Ions, e.g. Na+, K+, Ca2+, Cl-, HCO3-

Body fluids and their functions and constituents

Capillary dynamics and interstitial fluid

Osmolarity: osmolality, partition of fluids across membranes

Lymphatic system

Special fluids, especially cerebrospinal fluid and ocular fluids. Also pleural, pericardial and peritoneal fluids


Haematology and immunology

Red blood cells: haemoglobin and its variants. Blood groups

Haemostasis and coagulation

White blood cells

The inflammatory response

Immunity and allergy


Action potential generation and its transmission

Neuromuscular junction and transmission

Muscle types

Skeletal muscle contraction

Smooth muscle contraction

Motor unit


Cardiac muscle contraction

The cardiac cycle: pressure and volume relationships

Regulation of cardiac function; general and cellular

Control of cardiac output

Rhythmicity of the heart

Electrocardiogram and arrhythmias

Neurological and humoral control of systemic blood pressures, blood volume and blood flow (at rest and during physiological disturbances e.g. exercise, haemorrhage and Valsalva manoeuvre)

Peripheral circulation: capillaries, vascular endothelium and arteriolar smooth muscle, tissue

Characteristics of special circulations including: pulmonary, coronary, cerebral, renal, portal and fetal

Renal tract

Blood flow and glomerular filtration and plasma clearance

Tubular function and urine formation

Regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance

Regulation of acid-base balance



Gaseous exchange: O2 and CO2 transport, hypoxia and hyper- and hypocapnia, hyper- and hypobaric pressures

Pulmonary ventilation: volumes, flows, dead space. Effect of intermittent positive pressure ventilation on lungs

Mechanics of respiration: ventilation/perfusion abnormalities

Regulation of respiration

Non-respiratory functions of the lungs

Nervous system

Functions of nerve cells and synaptic mechanisms

The brain: functional divisions - cortex, midbrain, medulla, limbic system, brain stem and cerebellum

Intracranial pressure: cerebrospinal fluid, blood flow

Maintenance of posture

Autonomic nervous system

Neurological reflexes

Motor function: spinal and peripheral

Senses: receptors, nociception, special senses

Pain: afferent nociceptive pathways, dorsal horn, peripheral and central mechanisms, neuromodulatory systems, supraspinal mechanisms, visceral pain, neuropathic pain, influence of therapy on nociceptive mechanisms

Spinal cord: anatomy and blood supply, effects of spinal cord section


Functional anatomy and blood supply

Metabolic functions


Gastric function; secretions, nausea and vomiting

Gut motility, sphincters and reflex control

Digestive functions


Nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals

Metabolic pathways, energy production and enzymes; metabolic rate

Hormonal control of metabolism: regulation of plasma glucose, response to trauma

Physiological alterations in starvation, obesity, exercise and the stress response

Body temperature and its regulation


Mechanisms of hormonal control: feedback mechanisms, effect on membrane and intracellular receptors

Hypothalamic and pituitary function

Adrenocortical hormones

Adrenal medulla


Thyroid and parathyroid hormones and calcium homeostasis


Physiological changes associated with normal pregnancy

Functions of the placenta: dynamics of placental transfer

Fetus: changes at birth

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