The term cardiomegaly most commonly refers to an enlarged heart. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of another disease or condition.

An enlarged heart is sometimes the temporary result of stress on your body caused by anything from pregnancy to a heart issue, such as coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or an abnormal heart rhythm.

In some people, an enlarged heart causes no signs or symptoms. Others may experience shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythm or swelling in the legs.

Complications of enlarged heart can include:

  • Heart failure: One of the most serious types of enlarged heart, an enlarged left ventricle, increases the risk of heart failure.
  • Blood clots: If clots enter your bloodstream, they can block blood flow to vital organs, even causing a heart attack or stroke.
  • Heart murmur: For people who have an enlarged heart, the mitral and tricuspid valves may not close properly because they become dilated, leading to a backflow of blood.
  • Cardiac arrest and sudden death: Some forms of enlarged heart can lead to disruptions in your heart's beating rhythm, causing fainting or, in some cases, cardiac arrest or sudden death.

When detected early, an enlarged heart is easier to treat. 

So talk to your Mercy doctor if you have concerns or symptoms. Your Mercy doctor has easy, convenient access to a full range of diagnostic and treatment tools, and can connect you with a Mercy heart specialist as needed.

How Is Cardiomegaly Diagnosed?

In addition to a physical exam and simple X-rays, your doctor might order:

  • Stress test studies the heart while you exercise, usually on a treadmill
  • Cardiac catheterization is a flexible tube is threaded through a blood vessel to your heart. This allows your doctor to study the inside of your arteries, use dyes to see the pumping function of your heart or remove a piece of your heart muscle to be studied under a microscope.
  • CT or MRI scan sees the structure of your heart and check how well it is pumping

How is Cardiomegaly Treated?

Treatments for an enlarged heart focus on correcting the cause. Based on the problem, your doctor might use:

  • Medications to reduce retention of fluids, reduce potential blood clotting, lower blood pressure and get the heart back in normal rhythm
  • Pacemaker, a battery-powered device that sends electrical impulses to help the heart maintain a regular heartbeat.
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) uses electrical pulses to control abnormal heart rhythms, especially ones that can be life-threatening

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