Alternate Names : Right-sided heart failure
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.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
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:
- Central sleep apnea
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Interstitial lung disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Primary pulmonary hypertension
- Pulmonary vascular disease
- Secondary pulmonary hypertension
Pictures & Images
Sarcoid, stage IV – chest x-ray
This film shows advanced sarcoid, scarring of the lungs (the light streaking), and cavity formation (the dark areas in the upper right side of the picture).
Acute vs. chronic conditions
Acute conditions are severe and sudden in onset. This could describe anything from a broken bone to an asthma attack. A chronic condition, by contrast is a long-developing syndrome, such as osteoporosis or asthma. Note that osteoporosis, a chronic condition, may cause a broken bone, an acute condition. An acute asthma attack occurs in the midst of the chronic disease of asthma. Acute conditions, such as a first asthma attack, may lead to a chronic syndrome if untreated.
Chronically low blood levels of oxygen may lead to pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs), and possibly to cor pulmonale. Cor pulmonale is also called right-sided heart failure, and is characterized by enlargement of the right ventricle. Treatment targets the underlying illness and may include supplemental oxygen, a low-salt diet or calcium channel blockers.
Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.
Review Date : 4/24/2009
Reviewed 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.
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