Pulmonary heart disease, also known as cor pulmonale, is the enlargement and failure of the right ventricle of the heart as a response to increased vascular resistance (such as from pulmonic stenosis) or high blood pressure in the lungs.
Chronic pulmonary heart disease usually results in right ventricular hypertrophy (RVH), whereas acute pulmonary heart disease usually results in dilatation. Hypertrophy is an adaptive response to a long-term increase in pressure. Individual muscle cells grow larger (in thickness) and change to drive the increased contractile force required to move the blood against greater resistance. Dilatation is a stretching (in length) of the ventricle in response to acute increased pressure.
To be classified as pulmonary heart disease, the cause must originate in the pulmonary circulation system; RVH due to a systemic defect is not classified as pulmonary heart disease. Two causes are vascular changes as a result of tissue damage (e.g. disease, hypoxic injury), and chronic hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. If left untreated, then death may result. The heart and lungs are intricately related; whenever the heart is affected by a disease, the lungs risk following and vice versa.