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Giant Heart: Unusual Condition Means Heart is 80% of Man’s Chest

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A 57-year-old man who went to the emergency room for swelling of his extremities learned that his symptoms had an unusual cause: a massively enlarged chamber of his heart, according to a brief report his case.

Imaging tests revealed that the man had what his doctors described as a “giant right atrium,” according to the report, published Aug. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The right atrium is one of the four chambers of the heart.

Because of the enlarged chamber, the man had a “cardiothoracic ratio” of 0.82, according to the report. [Here’s a Giant List of the Strangest Medical Cases We’ve Covered]

The cardiothoracic ratio is a ration of the width of the heart is compared to the width of the chest, said Dr. David Majdalany, a cardiologist and director of the adult congenital heart disease center at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was not involved with the man’s case. In other words, this man’s heart was occupying 82 percent of the width in his chest cavity. A normal cardiothoracic ratio is less than 0.5, meaning that the heart takes less than 50 percent of the width in the chest, Majdalany added.

Indeed, an isolated enlarged right atrium is a very rare condition, Majdalany said.

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