What Is Right Ventricular Hypertrophy?

Thickening of the Heart's Lower Chamber Wall

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

The right ventricle is one of the two lower chambers of the heart. It receives deoxygenated blood (blood in which oxygen has been removed) from the body and then pumps this blood to the lungs to receive oxygen. Right ventricular hypertrophy, also known as right ventricular enlargement, is a thickening of the heart’s right lower chamber wall when there is pressure overload due to lung disease.

As the muscle thickens, it becomes more difficult for the heart to pump blood to the lungs. It usually is caused by severe lung disease but can also be caused by a leaky left-sided heart valve (aortic regurgitation) or other heart conditions. Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment depend on underlying conditions and their severity.

This article explains right ventricular hypertrophy's symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Illustration showing the heart and the right ventricle.

SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

Right Ventricular Hypertrophy Symptoms

Right ventricular hypertrophy itself may have no symptoms. However, symptoms can come from the lung conditions or heart problems associated with it. These symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Peripheral edema (swelling of the legs, feet, or ankles)
  • Dizziness or fainting after exercise
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

Less common symptoms include a cough, hoarseness, or coughing up blood.

Causes

Right ventricular hypertrophy is most commonly caused by pulmonary hypertension (blood pressure leading from the heart to the lungs is too high). Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries in the lungs narrow, causing decreased blood flow.

High blood pressure in the lungs has several causes, including:

Tricuspid regurgitation, a leaky tricuspid heart valve, can also cause right ventricular hypertrophy. Causes of tricuspid regurgitation include:

What Is Tricuspid Regurgitation?

Tricuspid regurgitation occurs when the tricuspid valve (the valve between the heart’s top right chamber and lower right chamber) doesn't close properly. This causes blood to leak backward, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through.

Congenital heart defects that affect the right side of the heart can also cause right ventricular hypertrophy.

Diagnosis

It's important for healthcare providers to determine what diseases or structural defects led to the development of right ventricular hypertrophy in patients. Diagnostic tests for right ventricular hypertrophy depend on what your provider suspects is causing it.

Certain tests also help providers determine if symptoms are coming from other conditions such as left-sided heart failure or coronary artery disease.

Tests used to evaluate right ventricular hypertrophy include:

Treatment

Treatments focus on treating the underlying cause of right ventricular hypertrophy. They include:

Prognosis

Prognosis of right ventricular hypertrophy depends on both the severity as well as the underlying cause. In recent years, medicine has made great advancements in the management of right-sided heart disease.

If right ventricular hypertrophy isn’t addressed, it can lead to right-sided heart failure, although precisely how this happens is not well understood.

Lifestyle changes can help slow the progress and manage symptoms of right-sided heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • Getting enough sleep

Coping

Many people with heart disease lead productive lives. Some of the keys to living a good life with heart disease include maintaining your treatments and medical follow-ups and taking care of your physical and mental health.

Summary

Right ventricular hypertrophy is a thickening of the heart’s lower right chamber due to pressure overload. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the lungs.

The most common causes of right ventricular hypertrophy are severe lung disease, a leaky tricuspid heart valve, or certain genetic heart conditions. Diagnosis and treatment depend on the underlying conditions causing right ventricular hypertrophy.

A Word From Verywell

If you are suffering from right ventricular hypertrophy, it’s important that your healthcare provider determines what led to it. Your treatments will focus on controlling these underlying conditions and preventing them from progressing. Making healthy lifestyle changes can improve your heart, lungs, and overall health.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. European Society of Cardiology. Right ventricular failure.

  2. Bhattacharya PT, Ellison MB. Right ventricular hypertrophy. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pulmonary hypertension.

  4. Penn Medicine. Tricuspid valve regurgitation.

  5. Guihaire J, Haddad F, Mercier O, Murphy DJ, Wu JC, Fadel E. The right heart in congenital heart disease, mechanisms and recent advances. J Clin Exp Cardiolog. 2012;8(10):1-11. doi:10.4172/2155-9880.S8-010

  6. Healio Learn the Heart. Right ventricular hypertrophy ECG review.

  7. von Siebenthal C, Aubert JD, Mitsakis P, Yerly P, Prior JO, Nicod LP. Pulmonary hypertension and indicators of right ventricular function. Front Med (Lausanne). 2016;3:23. doi:10.3389%2Ffmed.2016.00023

  8. Guihaire J, Haddad F, Mercier O, Murphy DJ, Wu JC, Fadel E. The right heart in congenital heart disease, mechanisms and recent advances. J Clin Exp Cardiolog. 2012;8(10):1-11. doi:10.4172%2F2155-9880.S8-010

  9. Cathelijne E.E. van der Bruggen, Ryan J. Tedford, Martin Louis Handoko, Jolanda van der Velden, Frances S. de Man, RV pressure overload: from hypertrophy to failure, Cardiovascular Research, Volume 113, Issue 12, October 2017, Pages 1423–1432, doi:10.1093/cvr/cvx145

  10. American Heart Association. Pulmonary hypertension-high blood pressure in the heart-to-lung system.

  11. Cleveland Clinic. Right-sided heart failure.

  12. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Living with coronary heart disease.