Eisenmenger syndrome is a condition that some individuals are born with, causing heart defect complications. This condition occurs when there is hole between the two pumping chambers of the heart (the left and right ventricles) that allows blood that has already picked up oxygen from the lungs to circulate abnormally and flow back into the lungs, instead of going out to the rest of the body. This makes it difficult for affected individuals to receive enough oxygen to all other organs and tissues of the body. While it is not clear whether oxygen deprivation prevents the disease from getting worse, Eisenmenger syndrome is known as a life-threatening condition that requires proper medical monitoring and treatment. Individuals suffering from very severe symptoms may need a heart-lung transplant.
Signs and symptoms of Eisenmenger syndrome include:
- Change in skin color
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers/toes
- Large, rounded fingernails or toenails
- Rapid heart beats
The main cause for Eisenmenger syndrome is defect in the heart caused by abnormal blood circulation. A heart defect causes a hole (shunt) to develop between two chambers of the heart, causing blood to circulate abnormally in the heart and lungs. Increased blood flow returns to the lungs instead of going to the rest of your body, making it difficult to receive oxygen to other parts of the body.
Heart defects that can cause Eisenmenger syndrome include:
- Ventricular septal defect: A hole (shunt) that develops in the wall of tissue that divides the left and right ventricles of the heart, causing blood to circulate abnormally in the heart and lungs.
- Atrial septal defect. A hole (shunt) that develops in the wall of tissue that divides the right and left sides of the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
- Patent ductus arteriosus. An opening between the pulmonary artery that carries oxygen-poor blood to the lungs and the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body (aorta)
- Atrioventricular canal defect. A large hole that develops in the center of the heart where the walls between the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) meet.
Factors associated with the risk of developing Eisenmenger syndrome include:
- Family history of heart defects
- Not detecting heart defects early enough to be treated properly
Complications that can arise from Eisenmenger syndrome include the following:
- Heart failure: the weakening of the heart muscles, causing decrease in pumping effectiveness
- Heart attack: the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness
- Erythrocytosis: the increase of red blood cell count due to hormone release from the kidneys and oxygen deprivation
- Cyanosis: the decrease of oxygen levels in the blood due to abnormal blood flow through the heart)
- Arrhythmias: having irregular heart rhythm due to thickening of the walls in the heart and low oxygen levels)
- Hemoptysis: coughing up blood due to increased pressure in the lungs and problems with the blood)
- Stroke: a block in a blood vessel in the brain due to blood clots
- Bleeding in the brain
- Pregnancy risks
- Sudden death
Detecting heart defects and getting surgery as soon possible can help prevent Eisenmenger syndrome.