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Enlarged Heart Treatment and Symptoms

An enlarged heart, or cardiomegaly, is often a symptom of one of several underlying conditions 1. Some conditions that can cause an enlarged heart include high blood pressure, heart failure, coronary artery disease, a heart valve problem, and pregnancy 12. If you are diagnosed with an enlarged heart, your physician will run several tests to diagnose the underlying condition before he can decide on a treatment plan that is appropriate for you 1.

Symptoms

Some people have no symptoms of having an enlarged heart, but many do 1. A common symptom is a cough, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, especially when lying down. This is caused by the congestion of excess fluid pooling around the lungs when the heart is enlarged 1. Some patients gain weight from the retained fluids. An enlarged heart also can cause fatigue, dizziness, and in some cases, mental confusion 1. Some patients experience heart palpitations or interruptions in their heart's rhythm.

Tests and Diagnosis

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Often, an enlarged heart is detected during a chest X-ray 1. This may be taken due to a patient's symptoms of shortness of breath, or for an unrelated reason. Once an enlarged heart is noticed, several tests will be done to determine the cause 1.

An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is a recording of the heart's electrical activity. An echocardiogram, or ECG, is an ultrasound of the heart that can detect abnormalities. A CT scan is a series of X-rays, and an MRI is a series of magnetic images. All of these diagnostic tests can detect heart valve problems, vascular problems, and defects in the way that the heart is pumping.

The doctor may order a variety of blood tests to rule out or confirm underlying conditions. In some cases, a catheter may be run through the blood vessels to the heart.

  • Often, an enlarged heart is detected during a chest X-ray 1.
  • In some cases, a catheter may be run through the blood vessels to the heart.

Treatment

Depending on the underlying condition or conditions detected, your doctor will present a treatment plan. Part of the plan may be lifestyle changes that you will need to make. You may need to monitor your blood pressure or blood sugars at home. You also may need to weigh yourself daily to be aware of fluid retention, which can cause rapid weight gain.

Your doctor may also prescribe medications for you to take.

Some patients may require a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. These devices monitor and regulate the pumping of the heart. Other patients, mainly those for whom medication and implantable devices are not working, may be placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant as a last resort to treat their enlarged heart 1.

  • Depending on the underlying condition or conditions detected, your doctor will present a treatment plan.
  • You may need to monitor your blood pressure or blood sugars at home.
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