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Alternative Names Return to topRight-sided heart failure
Definition Return to top
Cor pulmonale is failure of the right side of the heart brought on by long-term high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart.
Causes Return to top
Normally, the left side of the heart produces a higher blood pressure in order to pump blood to the body. The right side of the heart pumps blood through the lungs under much lower pressure.
Any condition that leads to prolonged high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (called pulmonary hypertension) puts a strain on the right side of the heart. When the right ventricle is unable to properly pump against these abnormally high pressures, it is called cor pulmonale.
Almost any chronic lung disease or condition causing prolonged low blood oxygen levels can lead to cor pulmonale. A few of these causes include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The following tests may help diagnose cor pulmonale:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment is directed at the illness that is causing cor pulmonale. Supplemental oxygen may be prescribed to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.
There are many medicines available to treat cor pulmonale.
Blood thinning (anticoagulant) medications may also be prescribed. Surgery may be needed to reverse heart defects that cause the condition. In very advanced cases, a heart and lung transplant may be advised.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on the cause of the condition. Giving oxygen often improves symptoms, stamina, and survival.
Treating primary pulmonary hypertension often leads to greater stamina and a longer life. In some cases, a lung transplant or heart-lung transplant can extend survival.
Possible Complications Return to top
Progressive pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale may lead to:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you experience shortness of breath or chest pain.
Prevention Return to top
Avoiding 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.
References Return to top
Barst RJ. Pulmonary hypertension. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 67.Update Date: 4/24/2009 Updated by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veterans Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.