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Right ventricular hypertrophy is the increase or the enlargement in the size of the right ventricle of the heart. The right ventricle is responsible for pumping blood towards the lungs. In the lungs, blood is mixed with oxygen and then pumped back to the left ventricle to be eventually distributed to the brain and to other parts of the body.
There are several possible causes of hypertrophy in the right ventricular. These include pulmonary valve stenosis, ventricular septal defect, pulmonary hypertension, and tetralogy of Fallot, among many others. Pulmonary valve stenosis is the narrowing of the membrane or valve that connects the right ventricle with the pulmonary artery, the blood vessel going to the lungs. Ventricular septal defect is a heart condition appearing during birth that presents with a defect in the wall separating the heart's right and the left ventricles.
Pulmonary hypertension is marked by the increase of blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. Tetralogy of Fallot is also a heart defect that appears from birth and is often the cause of blue baby syndrome. Blue baby syndrome occurs when there is not enough blood with oxygen circulating in the body of an affected child. In all these conditions, the flow of blood between the lungs and the heart is often decreased, putting much stress on the right ventricle. As the muscles of the right ventricle keep working overtime, the ventricle will eventually increase in size.
When the extent of right ventricular enlargement is mild, effected individuals may not experience any symptoms. In cases of severe enlargement, however, symptoms associated with respiratory problems often occur. These symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and sometimes, loss of consciousness. Patients may also complain of frequent episodes of forceful and rapid heart beats. Another manifestation of right ventricular hypertrophy is edema or swelling of the ankles, feet and legs.
Diagnosis includes the use of an electrocardiogram (ECG) in order to monitor the activities of the heart. A chest X-ray is sometimes done so that medical professionals can see the enlarged heart. An echocardiogram, however, is often used by cardiologists to detect hypertrophy, as it can give the precise measurement of the size and thickness of the affected heart muscle. Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in the treatment of heart diseases.
Treatment often starts with finding the underlying cause that led to the right ventricular enlargement. Medications are also prescribed to control and provide relief from the symptoms experienced by patients. Some patients may need a pacemaker, a device implanted in the chest to regulate the contraction and rhythm of the heart.