Enlarged Heart (Cardiomegaly)
Diagnosis of an Enlarged Heart continued...
Physical exam. Swelling may be present. And an enlarged heart may produce abnormal sounds when a doctor listens with a stethoscope.
Chest X-ray. The type of enlarged heart called dilated cardiomyopathy produces an abnormally large shadow on a chest X-ray film.
Cardiac catheterization. During this procedure to detect blockages in the coronary arteries, the heart's size and pumping function can also be checked.
Blood tests. These may be done to check for causes of enlarged heart, such as:
- congestive heart failure
- thyroid disease
- HIV or other viral infection
CT scans and MRIs. These may help diagnose an enlarged heart in certain situations.
Biopsy. Very rarely, a doctor may recommend taking a small tissue sample from inside the heart to determine the cause of an enlarged heart.
Treatments for an Enlarged Heart
When possible, treatments for an enlarged heart focus on the underlying cause, such as:
Coronary artery disease. Opening the blockages in the blood vessels supplying oxygen to the heart (cardiac catheterization with stenting) can improve blood flow to the heart muscle. If an enlarged heart is due to a blockage, the heart's pumping may improve.
Hypertension. Controlling high blood pressure can prevent further damage and improve function in the enlarged heart.
Alcohol, drug, or medication use. Stopping use of the harmful substance can lead to improvement in the symptoms of an enlarged heart and improve heart function.
Heart valve disease. Surgery or a less invasive procedure can sometimes repair or replace a damaged heart valve causing cardiomegaly.
When an enlarged heart is causing congestive heart failure, other treatments focus on improving symptoms and maintaining heart function, such as:
Diuretics. "Water pills" increase urination. This eventually reduces the volume of blood the heart must pump. Diuretics also help reduce uncomfortable leg swelling.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and beta-blockers. These medications commonly treat high blood pressure but also independently improve heart health.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. A device implanted in the chest can electrically restart the heart if it stops beating. Some devices can also stimulate the heart to pump more effectively.
In very few people with cardiomegaly and severe congestive heart failure, heart transplant may be recommended.