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Alternative namesRight-sided heart failure - cor pulmonale
Failure of the right side of the heart caused by prolonged high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery and right ventricle of the heart.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Normally, the left side of the heart produces a higher level of blood pressure in order to pump blood to the body; the right side pumps blood through the lungs under much lower pressure. Any condition that leads to prolonged high blood pressure in the arteries or veins of the lungs (called pulmonary hypertension ) will be poorly tolerated by the right ventricle of the heart. When this right ventricle fails or is unable to properly pump against these abnormally high pressures, this is called cor pulmonale.
Almost any chronic lung disease or condition causing prolonged low blood oxygen can lead to cor pulmonale. A few of these causes include:
Signs and tests
Some tests that may help diagnose cor pulmonale include:
Treatment is directed at the underlying illness. Supplemental oxygen may be prescribed to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.
A diet low in salt is often recommended. Diuretics may be given to remove excess fluid from the body. Calcium channel blockers, intravenous prostacyclin, or the oral medication bosentan may be used to treat pulmonary hypertension.
Surgery may be used to reverse heart defects that cause cor pulmonale. Blood thinning (anticoagulant) medications may also be prescribed.
The outcome depends on the underlying cause. Administering oxygen often results in improved symptoms, more stamina, and longer survival.
ComplicationsProgressive pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale may lead to severe fluid retention, life-threatening shortness of breath, shock, and death.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you experience shortness of breath or chest pain.
PreventionAvoiding behaviors that lead to chronic lung disease (especially cigarette smoking) may prevent the eventual development of cor pulmonale. Careful evaluation of childhood heart murmurs may prevent cor pulmonale caused by certain heart defects.
Update Date: 2/27/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT