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An Overview of Right Atrial Enlargement

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/26/2011

Are you looking for more information about right atrial enlargement? Here we will talk about what causes it and how it is treated.

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    Right atrial enlargement means the heart's right atrium has increased in size. The right atrium plays the role of delivering blood through the tricuspid valve to the right ventricle. A variety of things can cause the right atrium to become enlarged. An EKG is used to diagnose this condition.

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    Mitral Stenosis

    This heart valve disorder affects the heart valve known as the mitral valve. It is characterized by restricted blood flow due to the mitral valve not fully opening. Sometimes no symptoms occur. When they do, they may include cough, fatigue, heart palpitations, trouble breathing, frequent respiratory infections, swelling of feet or ankles, and in rare cases, chest discomfort.

    In mild cases, no treatment may be necessary, but when severe, hospitalization may be necessary. Medications that may be used include antibiotics, diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, digoxin, anticoagulants, nitrates, calcium channel blockers and angiotensin receptor blockers. Some patients may require surgery, such as mitral valve replacement or repair.

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    Pulmonary Embolism

    A pulmonary embolism occurs when at least one lung artery becomes blocked. Blood clots traveling to the lungs is the most common cause. Common symptoms include chest pain, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include wheezing, bluish-colored or clammy skin, rapid or irregular heartbeat, fainting or feeling lightheaded, leg swelling, sweating excessively and weak pulse.

    Clot dissolving medications and anticoagulants are most often used to treat this medical emergency. In some cases, surgical procedures, including vein filter or clot removal, are necessary.

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    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

    This is actually more than one disease affecting the lungs characterized by blocked airflow. Patients find it increasingly hard to breath. The two main conditions making up COPD are chronic asthmatic bronchitis and emphysema. This condition is the leading cause of illness and death throughout the world. Symptoms may include wheezing, chronic cough, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.

    Certain medications may help to make the symptoms easier to live with. These include inhaled corticosteroid medications, bronchodilators and antibiotics. Certain therapies may help patients breath a little easier. These may include pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy. In some cases, surgery may be necessary, including lung volume reduction surgery or a lung transplant.

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    Mitral Valve Regurgitation

    This conditions occurs when the mitral valve fails to close as tightly as it should which then makes it possible for blood to flow backward into the heart. Symptoms may include heart murmur, fatigue, cough, swollen feet or ankles, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded, heart palpitations and urinating excessively.

    In mild cases, observation may be all that is necessary. Certain medications, such as diuretics, may be helpful in alleviating any accumulation of fluid in the legs or lungs. In some cases, the mitral valve may need to be surgically replaced or repaired.

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    Resources

    MedlinePlus. (2010). Mitral Stenosis. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000175.htm

    Mayo Clinic. (2009). Mitral Valve Regurgitation. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mitral-valve-regurgitation/DS00421