Enlarged Heart

We often hear of an enlarged heart, what does it mean? How does one’s heart get enlarged? And how does it affect our health?

Heart Disease
Heart Disease
Our heart is a pear-shaped muscle pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Sometimes due to certain factors, birth defects- congenital heart defects, our heart muscle has to work much harder causing it to enlarge or become bigger in size.
Once the heart becomes enlarged, it is almost impossible to get it back to the original size.Therefore timely detection and management is the key.
Let’s try and explore factors which lead to an enlarged heart, a medical condition, which is impossible to cure but can be managed medically.
  • Congenital heart defects or heart defects one is born with us as PDA, VSD, ASD, Mitral valve defect, left untreated lead to high pulmonary pressures, which in turn lead to thickening of the arterial wall and also an enlarged heart.Though most babies are routinely scanned for congenital heart defects in developed countries, treatment upon detection and early intervention and management still remains the key.Many parents despite detection, are often scared to get surgical interventions without realizing that they are hampering both mental and physical growth and putting children at risk of enlarged heart and other complications later on in life.

 

  • Lifestyle-related complications such as hypertension or high blood pressure also lead to an enlarged heart over a period of time.In case of high blood pressure, the heart has to pump harder to deliver blood to the rest of your body, thereby thickening and enlarging the heart muscle.High blood pressure may also enlarge the upper chambers of the heart, the left ventricle and also weaken the heart long-term.

 

  • Coronary artery disease or CAD (blocked arteries requiring stenting, angioplasty) can also lead to a heart attack. A part of the heart muscle dies during a heart attack, causing the heart muscle to work harder to supply blood to the entire body which over long-term leads to an enlarged heart.

 

  • Abnormal Heart Beat or Arrhythmia is often ignored but may cause an enlarged heart over a period of time.

 

  • Anemia or low level of iron in the body, where the body doesn’t have enough Red Blood Cells to carry blood to the body, leads to rapid, irregular heartbeat causing the heart to pump harder to make up for lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood.Sicklers or patients suffering from sickle cell anemia are at an increased risk and despite hearsay, a Bone Marrow Transplant or a BMT remains the only curative treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia Major.

 

  • Thyroid disorders, also lead to various heart diseases over a period of time leading to an enlarged heart.
The biggest complications arising from an enlarged heart are heart failure,  SCA or SCD (sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death) or what is known as a silent heart attack in laymen language.
Heart Failure: During heart failure, the heart muscle weakens and the ventricles, stretch or dilate to a point that the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, leading to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Silent heart attack or SCD: An enlarged heart causes the heart rhythm to be so slow that the muscle is unable to move blood or it may cause a heart rhythm, so fast that the muscle is unable to beat properly resulting in sudden death.
More on diagnosis and treatment options in our next post.
Stay tuned in for more.
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Your Poop-Is it telling you something ?

Poop comes in all shades, often a result of what we eat and chemical changes due to bile as our food gets digested.

Normal poop color is brown though sometimes if we eat green leafy vegetables it could be on the greener side. A sudden color change could be indicative of a health problem.

 

Know what your poop color indicates and when it could mean trouble:
Green: Green colored stool could be due to iron supplements, green leafy vegetables, however, it could also mean that the food is moving too quickly through the large intestine as a result of which bile doesn’t have the time to break down the food completely.
White, Clay or Grey: Whitish, grey or clay-colored stools indicate lack of bile and often indicate a problem with gallbladder or liver. The problems could be as varied as liver cirrhosis needing a liver transplant or liver failure due to hepatitis A, Hep B or Hep C.
Yellow: Unless, you are having too many yellow colored liquids, yellow stools indicates, excess fat or poor fat absorption.
Poor fat absorption could be due to blocked bile ducts, a problem with the pancreas, and may indicate lack of enzymes for food digestion or may even point towards chronic pancreatitis, celiac disease.
Red: Unless you have been eating beets, carrots, tomatoes, cranberries, food with red coloring, bright red colored stool may indicate bleeding due to hemorrhoids, anal fissure, and even colon cancer or cancer of the rectum or even bowel cancer.
Black: Black colored stools, may indicate bleeding from the intestines, stomach which may even indicate stomach cancer and need an immediate follow-up call with a doctor.
A diet rich in blueberries or black licorice, iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate could be other exceptions.
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Decoding PET CT

The PET CT Scan is one of the sought after diagnostic tests. Let’s find out more about what is a PET CT and why is it preferred over other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.

What is a PET Scan?

A PET Scan is a nuclear medicine technique which produces images of the human body at a molecular level.

A PET CT uses radioactive tracers in conjugation with isotopes such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon etc. These radioisotopes act at a molecular level and work as probes which seek out disease, cancer in the body while giving out radio signals which are captured to produce an image.

PET CT Scan
PET CT

 

This can help in the diagnosis of even the tiniest lesions, thus increasing the accuracy of the investigation, subsequent diagnosis and hence cancer treatment.

A PET CT Scan, therefore reveals a lot more about the body than standard diagnostic tests such as MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.

What happens during a PET Scan?

A PET CT Scan, is always on a price appointment basis as the radioisotopes, having a very short half-life need to be brought in just before the scan.

A PET CT, is usually carried out empty stomach on overnight or at least 6 hrs fasting.

The creatinine levels, need to checked prior to conducting the PET CT by simple blood tests called KFT or Kidney function test

If the creatinine levels are in order, the patient is tested for blood sugar and if found in order, the patient is given an injection of glucose with a radioactive tracer.

After the injection, the patient is made to rest for about 90 mins and then taken for the actual scan which takes about 30 mins to 45 mins depending on the imaging required.

During the scan, the patient is made to lie on a comfortable table that moves slowly through the ring like PET scanner.

After the scan, the patient can leave immediately. However close contact with others especially children and pregnant women is best avoided for the next 4-6 hrs.

It is also good to drink a lot of water, to flush out the radioactive tracer from the body.

The imaging can be seen by the doctors and the nuclear medicine specialists almost immediately for evaluation, though a formal written report takes a day to be handed over to the patient.

Are there any side effects or discomfort due to the scan?

There are no side effects or discomfort due to the PET  CT Scan, except the minor prick while injecting the tracer.

The PET CT scanner also does not make any sounds while the scan is going on, unlike a few other diagnostics tests.

What are the diseases for which a PET CT Scan can be used?

The most common use case for a PET CT Scan is for detecting and treating cancer. However other applications, include diagnosing cardiac or heart problems and also neurology.

Cancer/Oncology :

During the initial stages of the disease, a PET CT helps distinguish between benign and malignant disease and also cancer staging, that is knowing and determining the stage of the disease and also its characteristics, which further helps oncologists decide the best treatment option for the patient.

During the course of treatment, it helps determine response to therapy or cancer treatment and if the metabolic activity decreases on the PET CT Scan, the oncologists know that the drugs being administered are working.

On the other hand, if the metabolic activity on the scan increases, it indicates that the treatment option is losing its efficacy or is not working and helps oncologists change the line of treatment to benefit the patient.

Cardiac Care: Post a heart attack, a PET CT Scan can be used to determine myopathy, need for CABG or open heart surgery and if there would be any benefit from CABG or would a heart transplant or an LVAD be a better treatment option.

Neurology: Alzheimer’s at an early stage can be diagnosed using a PET Scan leading to early intervention.

A PET CT Scan helps locate tumors, distinguish between benign and malignant tumors and also scar tissue for brain surgery.

A PET CT  is also useful for the treatment of epileptic seizures. It can help locate the origin and focus of seizures and assess sites for intervention if any is required.

What is the difference between a PET CT and an MRI or a CT ?

A CT or an MRI works on the physical level and can give the size and location of the tumor with accuracy.

However since both tests do not work on the molecular level, they cannot indicate metabolic activity of the tumor which only a PET CT Scan can indicate, thereby making a PET CT, a diagnostic test of choice for oncologists, cardiologists, cardiac or heart surgeons and interventional neurologists.

To know more about, PET CT Scans, cost, and implications, from the best cancer hospitals in India, write to us on info@ihealthkonnect.com or send us a query.

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