Cor pulmonale is failure of the right side of the heart. It is brought on by long-term high blood pressure in the arteries of the lung and right ventricle of the heart.
High blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is called pulmonary hypertension. The right side of the heart has a harder time pumping blood to the lungs when this happens. If this high pressure continues, it puts a strain on the right side of the heart, leading to cor pulmonale.
Any chronic lung condition that causes prolonged low blood oxygen levels can lead to cor pulmonale. A few of these causes include:
Shortness of breath or light-headedness during activity is often the first symptom. You may have a fast heart beat and feel like your heart is pounding.
Over time, symptoms occur with lighter activity or even while at rest. They may include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal:
The following tests may help diagnose cor pulmonale:
The goal of treatment is to control symptoms. It is important to treat medical problems that cause pulmonary hypertension, which can lead to cor pulmonale.
Many treatment options are available. If you are prescribed medicines, they may may be taken by mouth (oral), received through a vein (intravenous or IV), or breathed in (inhaled).Your doctor will decide which medicine is best for you. You will be closely monitored during treatment to watch for side effects and to see how well the medicine works for you. Never stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor.
Other treatments may include:
Other important tips to follow:
How well you do depends on what caused the condition.
As the illness gets worse, you will need to make changes in your home and get help around the house.
Cor pulmonale may lead to:
Call your doctor or nurse if you have shortness of breath or chest pain.
Avoiding behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, which lead to chronic lung disease, may prevent the development of cor pulmonale.
Right-sided heart failure
McGlothlin D, De Marco T. Cor pulmonale. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al., eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 56.
Massie BM. Heart failure: pathophysiology and diagnosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 58.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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