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Cor Pulmonale

What is Cor Pulmonale?

Cor pulmonale is failure of the right side of the heart caused by prolonged high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery and right ventricle of the heart.

Cor pulmonale is also called right-sided heart failure.

How does the Heart Function?

In a normal heart, the left side produces a higher level of 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 or veins of the lungs will be poorly tolerated by the right ventricle of the heart. When the right ventricle of the heart fails or is unable to properly pump against these abnormally high pressures, this is called cor pulmonale.

What Causes Cor Pulmonale?

Almost any chronic lung disease or condition causing prolonged low blood oxygen can lead to cor pulmonale. Some common causes of cor pulmonale are:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Mountain sickness
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Primary pulmonary hypertension
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Kyphoscoliosis
  • Diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
  • Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary disease
  • Pulmonary vascular disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Symptoms of Cor Pulmonale

The most common symptoms of cor pulmonale are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of the feet or ankles
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Chest discomfort
  • Bluish color to the skin
  • Distension of the neck veins
  • Abnormal fluid collection in the abdomen
  • Enlargement of the liver
  • Abnormal heart sounds

Can Cor Pulmonale be Treated?

Yes. Treatment is directed at the underlying illness. In some cases, supplemental oxygen may be prescribed to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.

Surgery may be used to reverse heart defects that cause cor pulmonale. Blood thinning medications may also be prescribed.

Complications of Cor Pulmonale

Cor pulmonale may lead to severe fluid retention, life-threatening shortness of breath, shock, and in severe cases, death.

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