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Enlarged Heart (Cardiomegaly)

Cardiomegaly or enlarged heart is a condition which results in an abnormal increase in size or thickness in the heart muscle which causes the heart to pump blood inefficiently. An enlarged heart is also referred to as cardiomegaly and although it is not an actual illness, it is considered to be a symptom of many heart or blood related illness. This condition is a sign of an overworked heart that ban cause congestive heart failure. The causes for an enlarged heart are:

  • High blood pressure: It causes the heart to work overtime to circulate blood to different parts of the body resulting in an enlarged heart.
  • Cardiomyopathy: It occurs when the heart becomes thickened and hard and as a result of which the heart has to work harder to move blood causing it to enlarge. Cardiomyopathy is divided into three types: dilated, restrictive and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: In this condition the heart becomes weak, gets larger and struggles to pump blood to the rest of the body.
  • Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: It is a condition in which the heart becomes still and cannot completely fill with blood.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: It is a medical problem where the heart muscle becomes thick.
  • Anemia: The red blood cells are unable to carry oxygen to tissues in this condition, resulting in a situation where the heart has to overcompensate for the lack of oxygen causing it to enlarge.
  • Congenital heart defect: These defects affect the blood flowing through the heart, forcing it to pump harder which may lead to an enlarged heart.
  • Abnormal heartbeat: In this condition the heart is not able to pump blood as effectively as it would normally which causes the heart to work extra to pump blood to different parts of the body causing it to enlarge.
  • Hemochromatosis: It is a disorder in which the body is unable to metabolize iron, causing it to build up in various organs, including the heart muscle which causes the weakening of the heart muscle and enlargement of the left ventricle.
  • Heart attack: It damages the heart and causes an enlarged heart.

The symptoms of an enlarged heart are usually seen when the heart is not able to pump blood normally

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Edema
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

Treatments for an enlarged heart are

  • Medications: When cardiomyopathy or any other type of heart condition results in enlarged heart then medications are recommended.
  • Diuretics: They lower the amount of sodium and water in the body which in turn helps in lowering the pressure in the arteries and heart.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: They lower the blood pressure and improve heart's pumping capabilities.
  • Beta blockers: They are used to lower blood pressure and improve the function of the heart.
  • Anticoagulants: They reduce the risk of blood clots, preventing a heart attack or stroke.

Medical procedures and surgeries

When medications do not produce the desired results then surgery or medical procedure is advised:

  • Medical devices to regulate your heartbeat: In an enlarged heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, a special pacemaker is used which coordinates with the contractions between the left and right ventricle. Serious condition of arrhythmias is treated with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
  • Heart valve surgery: If the heart valves are responsible for an enlarged heart then surgery is used to remove the narrow valve and replace it with an artificial valve or a tissue valve from a pig, cow or human-cadaver donor.
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD): Implantable mechanical pump helps the weakened heart pump in case of heart failure.
  • Coronary bypass surgery: Coronary artery bypass surgery is recommended if the enlarged heart condition is related to coronary artery disease.
  • Heart transplant: It is the final option if medications are unable to control the symptoms.