Cor Pulmonale is a condition of the right ventricle of the heart whereby it experiences immense stresses during its procedure of pumping blood to the lungs. Cor Pulmonale is essentially caused by a respiratory disorder which causes the right ventricle to pump blood much harder into the lungs. If left untreated, it can lead to failure of the right side of the heart.
Cor Pulmonale or Pulmonary Heart disease can be caused by a condition in which either the right ventricle experience abnormally high pressure or in case the blood oxygen levels are low. In either case the right ventricle has to pump blood more vigorously into the lungs in order to maintain critical oxygen levels in the blood stream. Cor pulmonale causes dilation or the enlargement of the normally smaller and thinner walled right ventricle to overcome the additional strain. Over a course of time, it may also trigger ventricular Hypertrophy, or the enlargement of muscle cells in the right ventricle for better contraction during pumping.
Cor Pulmonale is only diagnosed for patients having an associated lung or neuromuscular disorder. These may be
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease(COPD) or Chronic obstructive airway disease(COAD)
- Sleep Apnea
- Interstitial lung disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pulmonary Vascular disease
- Neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy
Of these the correlation of Cor Pulmonale with COPD is notable as majority of patients identified with cor pulmonale have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema in which the airways of the lungs become narrowed.
The symptoms for Cor Pulmonale are similar to those due to the underlying pulmonary disorders such as
- Inability to exercise at a stretch
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort in the chest
- Chronic coughing, Wheezing
- Swelling of neck veins
- Abnormal buildup of fluid in the body or Edema
- Swelling noticed in the ankles or feet
Cor Pulmonale can be confirmed by conducting common medical tests. Chest X-rays can show the enlarged pulmonary artery in a patient thereby indicating increased pressure in this main blood vessel. Magnetic resonance imaging is widely used in analyzing the size and performance of the pulmonary artery and thereby identifying Cor Pulmonale. Electrocardiographs are also used to ascertain any abnormalities in the pumping actions of the heart. Some other tests used during the process of diagnosis are blood antibody tests, CAT scan of the chest, pulmonary function test, measurement of blood oxygen by arterial blood gas analysis etc.
Treatment of Cor Pulmonale is basically involving changes in the lifestyle of the patient. The patient is advised to cut down on salty foods and reduce the intake of fluids. The treatment of the responsible pulmonary disorder will also be carried out concurrently. Anticoagulants or blood thinning medications may also be prescribed.
The outlook of a person suffering from Cor Pulmonale is not very optimistic as it occurs at a very late stage of the disease. But, proper medication, controlled diets, supply of additional oxygen to the blood and other steps to reduce the workload of the right ventricle can lead to a better and longer lifespan. In very advanced cases, a heart or lung transplant procedure may also be conducted.
The best advice is to prevent Cor Pulmonale by treating pulmonary disorders promptly. Smoking and other activities which are proven to be harmful to the lungs must be avoided. A healthy lifestyle goes a long way into preventing the onset of Cor Pulmonale