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Tags: heart

I have been told there is a shadow on my heart and damage to the left ventricle of the descending aorta. They also said there is not much they can do. I don’t really understand, could you make it simpler and explain it to me please?

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The Answer

A shadow on the heart could mean that a blood clot has built up inside the heart. This often happens if you have an abnormal heart rhythm, called Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

It is possible that this clot could move from the heart to other parts of your body, causing a variety of health problems:

  • A blot clot in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism. Watch out for signs such as breathlessness, chest pain and coughing.
  • A blood clot in the leg. This is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You may notice pain and swelling in the leg, or your skin may be warm or red, but sometimes there are no symptoms.
  • A blood clot on the brain, which could cause a stroke.

If you have AF, you are four or five times more likely to have a stroke, though this very much depends on your medical history and other factors, such as age.

Taking a type of medicine called an anti-coagulant, which stop blood clots forming, can greatly reduce the risk of this happening.

Left ventricle damage

There are four chambers in your heart – the left and right atria, and the left and right ventricle. Your left ventricle pushes blood that carries oxygen out into your aorta – the largest artery in your body – under high pressure. It then travels around a network of blood vessels around your body.

Several things can cause problems to the left ventricle:

High blood pressure
This means your heart has to work very hard to pump blood around the body because there is a high level of resistance in the arteries, which can enlarge the ventricle. This shows that your blood system is under strain and that you are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Valve problems
This problem could affect the valves that separate the chambers of your heart, or the valve between the left ventricle and the aorta. Valves stop blood flowing the wrong way around your heart so if they become damaged or do not work properly, it can increase the strain on your left ventricle, leading to enlargement. Lowering your blood pressure won’t reverse this, but can significantly reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack.

A heart attack
Your doctor might also talk about damage to the left ventricle when he means that you have had a heart attack, damaging some of the muscle.

Unfortunately, we can’t be specific about what your doctor meant because we would need to know a lot more about your medical history. However, we hope this explanation gives you some help about what sort of issues your doctor might have been referring to. You should definitely get in touch with them for further clarification.

For more information and support, visit our heart centre.

Answered by our team of Health at Hand nurses.

Further reading

Listen to your heart – AXA PPP

Heart fitness – AXA PPP

How to really love your heart – AXA PPP

Pulmonary Embolism – NHS factsheet

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – NHS factsheet

Heart attack – NHS factsheet

Stroke – NHS factsheet

Useful resources

British Heart Foundation

Anticoagulant medicines

Atrial Fibrillation

Cardiomyopathy