Cor pulmonale is a condition that causes the right side of the heart to fail. It is caused by long-term high blood pressure in the lung’s arteries and right ventricle of the heart. It can be treated with exercise and improving oxygen levels of the arterial blood.
What is cor pulmonale?
Cor pulmonale occurs when there is an increase in bulk of the right ventricle, the cavity in an organ, that causes the right side of the heart to fail. Long-term high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, called pulmonary hypertension, is the most common cause of cor pulmonale.
When someone has pulmonary hypertension, changes in the small blood vessels inside the lungs can lead to increased blood pressure in the right side of the heart. This makes the heart have to work harder to pump blood to the lungs and the continued strain causes cor pulmonale.
Lung conditions that cause low blood oxygen levels can also lead to cor pulmonale. These conditions include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic blood clots in the lung
- Cystic fibrosis
- Scarring of the lung tissue
- Severe curving of the upper part of the spine
- Obstructive sleep apnea
What are the symptoms of cor pulmonale?
Initially, the symptoms associated with cor pulmonale may reflect the symptoms of the lung conditions that are causing cor pulmonale. While symptoms may first appear during activity, over time, symptoms will occur with light activity or when resting.
Symptoms of cor pulmonale include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting spells during activity
- Chest discomfort
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the feet or ankles
- Lips and fingers that turn blue
- Abnormal buildup of fluid
What treatment options exist for cor pulmonale?
Treatment for cor pulmonale involves increasing a patient’s oxygen levels of the arterial blood. Treating medical problems that cause pulmonary tensions is also important because these can lead to cor pulmonale.
Treatment options can include medications as prescribed by your pulmonary specialist. These medications can thin the blood to reduce the risk of blood clots. Oxygen therapy at home may also be recommended. If it is a severe case, a lung or heart-lung transplant may be necessary.
How to prevent cor pulmonale
To prevent cor pulmonale, a patient should refrain from smoking. Smoking can lead to lung diseases which can lead to cor pulmonale.