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Cardiomegaly: definition, symptoms, grades and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The heart is a vital and complex organ at the same time, a reality that influences not only its importance to our health, but also the great variety of illnesses and unfavorable signs that it may present. Among the characteristics that we can find of this organ in relation to the others, is that this is a muscle, specially developed by our body for pumping blood as its main function and, just as it can happen with a muscle, the heart can become inflamed and / or hypertrophied.

In this FastlyHealarticle we will provide you with information about a heart condition in which these factors are involved, cardiomegaly: definition, symptoms, grades and treatment .

Definition of cardiomegaly and main causes

The cardiomegaly or heart hypertrophy is a disease of the heart in which this has increased in size, in relation to what should be its normal dimensions. There is no fixed measurement -since the size of each heart varies proportionally to the size of the person-, but it is considered that there is a cardiomegaly when it presents a size greater than half the diameter of the individual’s rib cage .

Cardiomegaly is a sign frequently found in a great variety of cardiomyopathies, since this abnormal growth or hypertrophy is caused in the vast majority of cases by the thickening or inflammation of the myocardium , that is, of the cardiac muscles responsible for pumping blood. . The aortic stenosis is a clear example of heart disease that favors the development of cardiomegaly. Other possible causes are:

  • Congenital factors and / or radiation , but even in these cases, the abnormal size also involves hypertrophy in the myocardium.
  • It can also originate as a sequel to cardiac or cardiorespiratory arrest, by damaging or weakening the myocardium (by dilation).
  • Excessive alcohol consumption .

The most frequently used medical tests to confirm cardiac hypertrophy are: chest x-ray and echocardiography (ECG).

Symptoms of cardiomegaly

Its main symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low resistance when lifting heavy objects and exerting physical effort
  • Chronic muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Tiredness after walking just a few dozen meters
  • Recurrent dizziness due to lack of oxygen and difficulty resisting changes in height
  • Palpitations and arrhythmias
  • Sleep apnea

Other symptoms that may arise, especially if the cardiomegaly worsens or persists for a long time are:

  • Chest tightness and chest pain
  • Swelling in the lower extremities and abdomen (dropsy and fluid retention )
  • Pulmonary edema and its symptoms
  • Weight gain from low physical inactivity

Cardiomegaly: degrees

The cardiothoracic index (CTI) is used to measure the size of the heart in proportion to the organism, for which a chest X-ray and / or echocardiogram is necessary. According to this index, in a normal person the transverse diameter or size of the heart should not exceed half the thoracic diameter with the maximum inhalation held (0.5 or less). From this figure (0.5 or 50%) onwards, the 4 degrees of cardiomegaly currently accepted begin to differ:

  • Grade I – mild cardiomegaly : 0.5 to 0.55
  • Grade II – moderate cardiomegaly : 0.55 to 0.60
  • Grade III – moderate to severe cardiomegaly : 0.60 to 0.65
  • Grade IV – severe cardiomegaly : 0.66 onwards

It is necessary to take into consideration factors such as scoliosis or deviations of the spine and obesity, which can put pressure on the area where the heart is located, changing its position or making it wider. In these cases, the CTI may show higher values ​​without implying the existence of cardiac hypertrophy or dilation.

Treatment for cardiomegaly

This problem is addressed by addressing its cause first , since cardiomegaly is only a sign. The most used resources in these cases are the following:

  • ACE inhibitors (heart failure and blood pressure control).
  • Food diurética to counter fluid retention: reducing salt intake and increasing consumption of fruits like pineapple and citrus.
  • Diet low in trans fat and saturated fat.
  • Reduction of alcohol consumption .
  • Constant physical activity .
  • Medications such as blood thinners.

In according to which cases surgery becomes essential . Interventions to consider if cardiomegaly is severe or cannot be resolved using the methods listed above are:

  • Surgery to replace the dysfunctional valve (s).
  • Installation of a cardiac bypass : if the problem is related to the coronary artery.
  • Implantation of a pacemaker.
  • Heart transplant: as a last resort. The heart to be implanted must be healthy and compatible at the level of size and blood type of the recipient patient.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Cardiomegaly: definition, symptoms, degrees and treatment , we recommend that you enter our category of Blood, heart and circulation .

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