Nomally, the apex of the heart points to the left side of the chest. In dextrocardia, the apex of the heart points to the right side of the chest and is present at birth. Why this happens is unclear.
The simplest type of dextrocardia which is rare, the heart is a mirror image of the heart and there are no other problems. When diagnosed with dextrocardia, the abdomen and the lungs will often also be arranged in a mirror image. For example, the liver will be on the left side instead of the right.
Some people who have the mirror image dextrocardia also have a condition called Kartagener syndrome. This syndrome is when the cilia that filter the air going into their nose and air passages. These people tend to have more sinus infections and pneumonia.
There are NO symptoms of dextrocardia if the heart is NORMAL.
If there are symptoms, these may include:
- Bluish skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Failure to grow and gain weight
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Pale skin (pallor)
- Repeated sinus or lung infections
There is not treatment for a complete mirror image dextrocardia however it is important to let the pediatrician know that the heart is on the right side. This information can be important in some exams and tests.
If there are heart defects, the baby may need to have surgery. Babies that are very ill may need to take medications. These medicines include:
- “Water pills” (diuretics)
- Drugs that help the heart muscle pump more forcefully (inotropic agents)
- Drugs that lower blood pressure and ease the workload on the heart (ACE inhibitors)
Surgery mighand treatment be needed if:
- To correct problems in the organs of the abdomen.
- Kartagener syndrome will need repeated treatment with antibiotics for sinus infections.
- If missing or abmormal spleen, they many need long-term antibiotics.
- Any child that has heart defects may need to get antibiotics before dental treatments and / or surgeries.
Dextracardia is believed to occur in 1 in 12,000 people which is less than one percent of the population.
People with dextracardia often live a normal life. If you have a more complicated case, you need to follow your doctors orders in order to avoid infections.