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Dextrocardia – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on January 30, 2014

Dextrocardia is a rare disorder wherein the heart is situated on the right side of the chest, instead of the normal left side. Dextrocardia is a congenital condition indicating that the abnormality is present since birth. It may however be noted that the condition is uncommon and typically affects no more than 1 percent of the overall population.

People may suffer from dextrocardia and still have a totally healthy and functioning heart. It is referred to as ‘isolated dextrocardia.’ Individuals affected by isolated dextrocardia may occasionally elicit a situation known as ‘situs inversus.’ It is a state wherein the different organs of the body such as the spleen, liver, etc. are also situated on the opposite side of the body.

Isolated dextrocardia generally does cause any adverse symptoms. The abnormality is typically diagnosed after an MRI/magnetic resonance imaging or an x-ray of the chest, which clearly show the heart to be positioned on the right side of the chest.

It is also important to note that some individuals affected by isolated dextrocardia may be prone to varied health problems such as sinus infections, lung infections, and/or pneumonia. Studies have indicated that isolated dextrocardia can often be accompanied by decreased functionality of the cilia present in the lungs. Cilia are thread-like fine hairs that perform the function of filtering the air that is inhaled. Diminished functionality of cilia means that viruses and other pathogens do not get completely filtered out, thereby increasing the risk and frequency of illnesses.

Additionally, still some other dextrocardia patients can experience problems of the heart and other organs which arise due to the abnormal anatomy. In such cases, different complications of the heart, lungs, and/or the digestive system need to be corrected via surgery.

Symptoms of dextrocardia

Dextrocardia which causes anomalies in the different functions of the heart can result in below listed signs and symptoms:

  • A blue shade to the skin and lips
  • Difficulties in the breathing process
  • Affected children may not grow and flourish
  • Fatigue

The above listed symptoms are indicative of defects that occur in the cardiac ventricles. Presence of liver anomalies can lead to conditions such as hepatitis which causes yellowing of the eyes and skin.Deficient amounts of oxygen in the heart can result in excessive tiredness and also prevent the normal growth of the child.

  • The spleen may be found to be absent in some infants with dextrocardia. It is a known fact that the spleen is an important component of the immune system. Hence, the absence of spleen can increase the vulnerability towards developing infections across the body.
  • The cardiac septum may also consists of holes in some children affected by dextrocardia. The septum refers to the divider which separates the right and left chambers of the heart. Defects of the septum can cause malfunction of the cardiac electrical system as well as irregular heart rhythms.

Causes of dextrocardia

The cause of dextrocardia is still a subject of research. During the growth of the fetus, the heart can develop on the right side of the body and still function fully. This is generally found to be true when the dextrocardialheart is a ‘mirror image’ of the normal heart. This means that the different parts of the heart, i.e. the arteries, ventricles, etc., are all arranged in a manner that is a mirror image of the arrangement of a normal heart.

The heart can sometimes form on the other side of the chest due to the existence of anatomical issues in the developing fetus. The presence of malformations in the abdomen, lungs, or the chest can then cause this abnormal development of the heart on the right side. In such a scenario, patients are at increased risk to developing other problems and defects of the heart and other major organs. The occurrence of abnormalities in many organs is known as ‘heterotaxy syndrome.’

Treatment of dextrocardia

It is important to treat dextrocardia if it prevents the normal functioning of the vital organs. Septal anomalies can be corrected via surgery. Pacemakers also assist in normal cardiac function.

Dextrocardia affected individuals are monitored for abdominal or intestinal obstruction. It is a condition which prevents the elimination of waste from the body. The abnormal position of the heart is more likely to cause digestive system obstructions, due to the fact that dextrocardia can sometimes cause an abnormality called intestinal malrotation, wherein there is malformation of the gut.Bowel obstruction is a life-threatening condition and needs to be corrected via surgery.

Antibiotics are prescribed to fight and prevent infections in case of malfunction or absence of spleen. Presence of respiratory illnesses may require prolonged use of antibiotics. It may be noted that even though medicines help decrease the instances of infections, patients of dextrocardia are still more likely to suffer from increased infections as opposed to a person with a normal heart.

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    • Admiral_Joraxx profile image

      Admiral_Joraxx 3 years ago from Philippines

      That's kinda weird, your heart grows to the right, instead of the left. I'm just wondering if the rest of our internal organs also have the tendency to grow in some different places other than their natural positions?

      Nice hub medical club. 1 up useful and interesting.!=)

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