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Ailments That Will Break the Heart

Updated on November 19, 2017
beckieland profile image

Rebecca is a certified Medical Assistant fascinated with the strange and unusual.

When it comes to matters of the heart, no one has all the answers, especially those who suffer from these unusual ailments. From a heart born outside the body, to one that causes unusual clubbed fingers, some of these ailments have no cure. Some of these ailments truly are heartbreaking, as sufferers of some of these conditions don't tend to live long. However, medical science is improving every day, and hopefully, these tragic ailments will soon be non-fatal.


Ectopia Cordis

This sad condition has little to no survivors. One in 100,000 babies have this birth defect, which is not always detectable through the ultrasound. The heart forms, and is born, outside the body. If you can imagine a heart beating and functioning outside the chest cavity, you can imagine the appearance of these babies. There is no cure for this sad condition, sufferers typically pass away early in life or in utero, and there are few surgeries to place the heart back into the chest cavity. However, medical advances are finding new ways to address the issue, and have managed to save a few babies from their inevitable demise.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

The name is long, and the condition is often frightening. This condition is present at birth, but does not appear until adolescence, when the child typically increases exercise through sports. The heart muscle replaces itself with fibrofatty tissue in the right ventricle and in parts of the left ventricle. It is triggered by intense exercise, and is especially frightening because its symptoms are often passed off as other ailments.

The sufferer will experience fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and swelling in the legs or abdomen. It's easy to see how people would miss these symptoms during intense workouts. However, this ailment can cause sudden cardiac death. Adolescents who have heart attacks are sometimes found to have this rare disease. Parents don't consider checking their youngsters for this ailment, especially as many of the symptoms are naturally related to regular workout routines.

Right Heart Hypoplasia

This term is separated as follows: right/heart/hypo/plasia. Hypo- as a prefix means less than normal in this context, while -plasia as a suffix means formation. Putting the term together gives us a heart whose right side has not formed completely. This rare defect is congenital, and affects the blood flow to the lungs. The heart cannot properly move oxygenated blood to the lungs from the heart, leaving the baby a blue color. The only solutions are extensive surgeries and stints. While the child will live, the process to keep the oxygenated blood flowing will be lifelong.

How the Heart Works
How the Heart Works | Source

Holt-Oram Syndrome

This ailment is evident through the malformation of bones in the upper limbs. Sufferers have missing bones, malformed wrist bones, or malformed fingers. The affected heart will have issues with the muscular wall that separates the two halves, which could become a life-threatening situation. There might be a hole in this wall, disrupting proper blood flow. Others might have a cardiac conduction disease, which means the electricity that keeps the heart going does not work correctly. This ailment brings one or many heart issues, which varies the life expectancy between individuals.

The electrical conduction of the heart.
The electrical conduction of the heart. | Source

Eisenmenger's Syndrome

This rare syndrome causes an increase in the pressure within the pulmonary artery. There is also a hole in the dividing wall of the heart. As a result, more blood than is necessary enters the lungs, causing permanent lung damage. The body does not receive enough oxygen, as a result, and the condition may become life-threatening. Sufferers often have clubbed fingers or hands in coordination with this syndrome. Luckily, there are medications available to improve the conditions, making this the least heartbreaking heart problem on the list.

Fascinating Heart Facts

Fast Heart Fun Facts

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    • Liztalton profile image


      10 months ago from Washington

      Wow, what an incredible story. Thank you for sharing!

    • beckieland profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mayglothling 

      10 months ago from Binghamton NY

      Liztalton - I found the link:

      This girl had successful surgery.

    • Liztalton profile image


      10 months ago from Washington

      Rebecca- I tried research to see how many children have been born and survived with their heart outside their chest and couldn't get an accurate number. I think that is because many die from it. I also couldn't find anything about the type of procedure/surgery someone would undergo to fix a heart being outside the chest...Thoughts? Or known of any research?

    • beckieland profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mayglothling 

      10 months ago from Binghamton NY

      Liz - there was a girl that had her heart outside her body in Texas. She is the first documented successful surgery to fix the issue, and the reason why I added the part about medical advances correcting some issues. I didn't weave her into the article, and maybe I should have. I feel like this article will need updating in the future anyway, as we get better at helping people with these afflictions.

    • Liztalton profile image


      10 months ago from Washington

      I recently saw a report of a seven year old girl from Russia who was born with her heart outside her chest. Doctors didn't expect her to live. She's trying to come to the US to have surgery. Miracles do happen. She's proof of that. Great informative article. Hopefully someday more treatments will exist for people with these conditions.


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