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Why Do Some People Have Their Heart on the Right Side of the Body?

    Why Do Some People Have Their Heart on the Right Side of the Body?

    Have you ever come across a person who has their heart on the right side of the body? You may think it is a myth, but to your surprise, it is a health condition called dextrocardia.

    Dextrocardia is a rare congenital medical condition where the heart is positioned towards the right side of the chest. Although this condition is not life-threatening, it often occurs alongside more severe complications like organ disorders in the abdomen and heart defects.

    Dextrocardia without any heart defects is unusual.

    Heart on the Right Side of the Body: What Is Dextrocardia?

    As mentioned, this is a very rare heart condition where the heart point towards the right instead of the left.

    If you have isolated dextrocardia, your heart is located on the right side of the chest but has no other defects. Situs Inversus is a condition that can also lead to dextrocardia. With this, many or all your visceral organs are on the opposite side of the body. It would look like a mirror image. For example, your spleen, liver, and other organs might also be located on the opposite side of the body.

    Why People Have Their Heart on the Right Side of the Body

    What causes Dextrocardia is the non-dominant genes, also called autosomal recessive genes.

    These abnormal genes cause the cardiac or primitive tube to develop in a reverse direction while a fetus is developing in the womb.

    Depending on the timing and extent of the reversal development, the heart and abdominal organs may also develop in reversed form. Hence, resulting in a baby having their heart on the right side of the body

    As it is recessive genes that cause the heart to develop towards the right side, genetics, here, play an important role. An individual can inherit this condition due to abnormal genes from both parents.

    According to research, 1 out of every 12,000 people is likely to cause dextrocardia. And 1 out of every 10,000 children is born with dextrocardia situs inversus totalis.

    heart on the right side

    Are There Any Symptoms of This Condition?

    There are no symptoms of Isolated Dextrocardia — a condition where the heart is on the right side but without any birth defects. Usually, this condition is found in an MRI or an X-ray of your chest that also shows the location of your heart.

    There are a few cases where people with isolated dextrocardia have an increased risk of pneumonia, lung, and sinus infections.

    It is said that there is one sign of dextrocardia where people have maximum heartbeats on the right side than the left.

    Typically, in severe cases, infants with an additional heart defect or any underlying disease or any symptom that requires medical treatment.

    The list of symptoms that require medical attention and treatment include:

    • Chronic infections, especially of the sinus and lungs
    • Breathing issues
    • Inability to gain weight
    • Jaundice or yellowed skin
    • Blue-tinted skin, especially around the fingers and toes

    What Are the Complications?

    Although the reversed organs may function normally, their irregular positioning may make the diagnosis of other conditions a bit challenging. For example, people born with dextrocardia situs inversus may experience sharp pain in the lower part of the abdomen during appendicitis instead of the right.

    When such anatomical differences occur, it makes any surgery difficult. The complications that a person suffering from dextrocardia is likely to see are:

    • Sepsis and infection
    • Cardiovascular disorders
    • Bronchial diseases
    • Heart disease and failure
    • Esophageal disorders
    • Bowel disorder

    Is Dextrocardia Treatable?

    Many people who grow up with their heart on the right side (dextrocardia) do not show any symptoms and therefore the condition goes untreated.

    Babies born with this congenital condition accompanied by heart defects may require surgery. Many infants are given medicines that increase the force of the heartbeat and lower blood pressure before surgery.

    The treatment of lung problems and sinus symptoms may lessen the chances or impact of dextrocardia if the person is suffering from Kartagener syndrome.

    The treatment options available are:

    • Treating cases of sinusitis and bronchitis
    • Expectorant or mucus clearing medicines
    • Antibiotics for bacterial infections

    Individuals with dextrocardia should consider genetic counseling before starting a family.

    Life expectancy is normal for most people with Dextrocardia situs inversus. Whereas, congenital heart defects are more frequent and associated with greater heart risks in isolated Dextrocardia cases.

    Comparatively, people with isolated dextrocardia often lead a normal life. In case you are at a higher risk of getting sick, your doctor will help with precautionary measures.

    However, if you have a more complicated case of dextrocardia, you may face issues throughout your life.

    Learn more about Heart Health, here.


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    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


    Dextrocardia, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007326.htm, Accessed on 15/04/2020

    Medical Definition of Dextrocardia, https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2968, Accessed on 15/04/2020

    Dextrocardia, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/dextrocardia, Accessed on 15/04/2020

    Dextrocardia, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031095, Accessed on 15/04/2020

    Dextrocardia with Situs Invertus, https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/dextrocardia-with-situs-inversus/, Accessed June 27, 2021

    Twist of Fate: A Case of Kartagener Syndrome, https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(16)55870-X/fulltext, Accessed June 27, 2021

    Picture of the authorbadge
    Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 23
    Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD
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