Severe COPD can cause heart failure in the heart’s right ventricle, a condition called right-sided heart failure or cor pulmonale. In severe COPD, oxygen concentration in the blood falls to abnormally low levels. In response, the walls of the main blood vessels inside the lungs (pulmonary arteries) experience changes. The blood pressure inside these arteries goes up as well. This is one type of a condition called pulmonary hypertension.
The heart’s right ventricle pumps blood through the pulmonary arteries into the lungs. High blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries puts excess strain on the right ventricle. Over time, the right ventricle may become stretched and dilated, and fail to pump blood effectively.
Right-sided heart failure causes fluid to accumulate in the body, such as in the legs and abdomen. Many conditions other than COPD also cause pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure.
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