Rare congenital condition - when a person has a heart on the right side

Rare congenital condition - when a person has a heart on the right side

What is dextrocardia?

Dextrocardia is a rare congenital condition where the heart points toward the right side of the chest instead of the left.

The condition is usually not life-threatening, although it often occurs alongside more serious complications, such as heart defects and organ disorders in the abdomen.

Autosomal recessive genes contribute to the formation of dextrocardia. Because of these abnormal genes, the fetal heart, still in the womb, develops in the opposite direction.

Only one in 12,000 people with a rare heart location is born.


Many people with congenital dextrocardia do not always know they have it, as the condition may not produce many symptoms. Often doctors only discover the irregularity while carrying out chest or heart imaging examinations for unrelated complications.

However, one telltale symptom of dextrocardia is that people with this condition have maximum heart sounds on the right of the chest instead of the left.

In severe cases, typically in infants with additional heart defects or another disease, certain symptoms need medical treatment.

Symptoms that require medical attention include:

  • unexplained and continual exhaustion
  • inability to gain weight
  • chronic infections, especially of the sinus and lungs
  • difficulty breathing
  • jaundiced or yellowed skin
  • blue-tinted skin, especially around the fingers and toes


Although the reversed organs themselves may function normally, their irregular positioning often makes the diagnosis of other conditions tricky. For example, in someone with dextrocardia, appendicitis will cause sharp pain in the lower left part of the abdomen instead of the right.

When these anatomical differences occur, they can also make surgery difficult.

Other complications associated with dextrocardia may include:

  • bowel disorders
  • bronchial diseases
  • esophageal disorders
  • cardiovascular disorders
  • heart failure or disease
  • infection and sepsis