Left ventricular hypertrophy is an enlargement of the myocardium in the heart's left ventricle. The left ventricle is the pumping chamber of the heart which is responsible for pushing oxygenated blood into the aorta so that it can circulate throughout the body. In patients with left ventricular hypertrophy, the heart has to work harder to do its job, which can result in complications. Individuals with an enlarged left ventricle, for example, are at increased risk of a myocardial infarction or heart attack.
There are a number of things which can lead to left ventricular hypertrophy. One common cause is actually athletic training, in which case the thickening is actually normal and not a cause for concern unless it develops to an unusual level. Other causes can include chronic high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, both of which put strain on the heart and contribute to thickening of the myocardium. This condition can also be congenital, in which case it may or may not be associated with other anomalies.
Some people with left ventricular hypertrophy experience no symptoms. Others may find that they are dizzy, short of breath, or faint, or that they experience irregular heartbeats and chest pain as a result of the hypertrophy. Left ventricular hypertrophy can be diagnosed with echocardiography and other medical imaging studies. It is generally regarded as a symptom, rather than a standalone condition.
When a patient has left ventricular hypertrophy, the first step in treatment is finding out why, as this will have an impact on the treatment approach. If, for example, a patient is an athlete and is in good health, a doctor may determine that no steps need to be taken. Conversely, someone with high blood pressure needs to regulate the blood pressure with diet, exercise, or medications. Addressing the cause should allow the thickening to resolve, returning the heart to a more normal state. It will also reduce other risks associated with the cause, such as kidney damage linked with high blood pressure.
In an extreme case, surgical options for management may be explored. Sometimes damage to the aorta is associated with left ventricular hypertrophy, in which case it needs to be repaired by a cardiovascular surgeon. Other surgical management options may also be proposed for the patient, depending on the cause. As always, patients should fully explore treatment options and their associated risks before making a decision about which treatment is best for them.