Dear Dr. Roach: What is the difference between eccentric LVH (left ventricular hypertrophy) and concentric LVH? Which one is more dangerous and needs more attention? My mother was diagnosed with severe eccentric LVH for body surface area with adequate systolic and diastolic functions. What does that mean?
The left ventricle is the chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the entire body, except for through the lungs; that is the job of the right ventricle.
When the job is too hard, usually because of high blood pressure, the left ventricle hypertrophies, meaning its walls get thicker as a response to the increased workload.
That hypertrophy can be symmetrical (concentric) or asymmetrical (eccentric).
Early on, the left ventricle can still do its two jobs despite the hypertrophy: It can push out all the blood the body needs (that’s the systolic function), and relax under low pressure (that’s the diastolic function).
Your mother has adequate systolic and diastolic function, so she is not in heart failure at this time.
If LVH is not treated, it tends to get worse. Usually the diastolic function fails first, and the left ventricle, being thick and stiff, requires higher pressure to relax properly and allow the blood to flow in from the left atrium.
The major symptom of diastolic heart failure (now called “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” or HF-pEF) is shortness of breath, especially with exertion.
Some people may progress to having both systolic and diastolic failure (“heart failure with reduced ejection fraction,” HF-rEF), where fatigue becomes a major symptom. Swelling of the legs and increasing nighttime urination are additional symptoms.
Its not good to have either eccentric or concentric LVH, but cardiac physiologists note that concentric LVH gives the heart less ability to adapt to increased stress and has a worse prognosis.
Both situations need to be treated as rapidly as possible to allow the heart to return to a more normal state. Blood- pressure reduction — whether through diet, weight loss, salt restriction, stress management, pharmacologic therapy or a combination — is the primary treatment.
Some blood-pressure medications are more effective than others in helping the heart return to a more normal state, and high-blood-pressure experts often choose agents that are more effective in those people with LVH, especially concentric LCH, on echocardiogram. ACE inhibitors and beta blockers are typically a part of first-line treatment.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers can email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu