What is Cardiomegaly?
- A Cardiomegaly or an enlarged heart is a medical condition in which the heart is enlarged. It may have various causes but, often it is the result of high blood pressure (hypertension) or the coronary artery disease.
- An enlarged heart may not pump the blood effectively, resulting in congestive heart failure. Cardiomegaly may improve over time, but most people with an enlarged heart needs lifelong treatment with medications.
What are the types of Cardiomegaly?
- The heart enlarges in response to the damage of the heart muscle. Up to a point, an enlargement permits the heart to continue pumping the blood normally. But as the enlargement progresses, the pumping ability of the heart declines.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy is the main type of cardiomegaly where the walls of both the left and right side of the heart (ventricles) become thin and stretched. This results in an enlarged heart.
- In other types of enlarged heart, the muscular left ventricle of the heart becomes abnormally thick. High blood pressure causes the left ventricular enlargement, also called as hypertrophy, while the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an inherited condition. Generally speaking, the pumping ability of the heart is preserved better, when the enlarged heart is thick rather than thin.
What are the Causes of Cardiomegaly?
- The most common causes of an enlarged heart include the blockages in the blood supply (coronary heart disease) and high blood pressure.
- Other causes of cardiomegaly include :
- Abnormal heart valve
- Viral infection of the heart
- Kidney disease requiring dialysis
- Pregnancy with enlarged heart developing around the time of delivery (peripartum cardiomyopathy)
- HIV infection
- Alcohol or cocaine abuse
- Genetic and inherited conditions
- Frequently, when no cause for an enlarged heart is identified, then it is known as idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
What are the Symptoms of Cardiomegaly?
- Most often, cardiomegaly or an enlarged heart causes no symptoms. If an enlarged heart becomes unable to pump the blood effectively, the symptoms of a congestive heart failure can develop.
- Palpitations or skipped heartbeats
- Shortness of breath (especially with exertion or when lying flat)
- Increased abdominal girth
- Leg swelling
- Weight gain
- Chest pain
- The symptoms of cardiomegaly may vary widely in people. Some people may never have symptoms while others may have mild symptoms that remain unchanged for years. Some people may experience steadily worsening shortness of breath.
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How is Cardiomegaly treated?
- Cardiomegaly is treated with medications
- Cardiomegaly can also be treated by surgical procedures
- Medical devices such as pacemakers are also implanted in the patient’s chest to constantly monitor your heart rhythm and deliver the electrical shocks when required to control the rapid, abnormal heartbeats
What Surgical Procedures are advised to treat Cardiomegaly?
- Coronary bypass surgery : If your cardiomegaly is related to the coronary artery disease, then you may opt for the coronary bypass surgery.
- Heart valve surgery : If your enlarged heart is caused due to problems in one of your heart valves, then surgery is required to remove the valve and replace it with either an artificial valve or a tissue form cow, pig or a deceased human donor. If the blood leaks backward through your valve, then the leaky valve may be surgically repaired or replaced.
- Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) : This implantable mechanical pump helps your weak heart pump. Often, the LVAD are implanted while you wait for a heart transplant or if you are not a heart transplant as a long-term treatment for the heart failure.
- Heart transplant : If the medications can’t control your symptoms, then a heart transplant is often a final option.
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