Diseases and Conditions

Eisenmenger syndrome


Without proper treatment and monitoring, your complications of Eisenmenger syndrome may include:

  • Low oxygen levels in your blood (cyanosis). The reversed blood flow through your heart lowers the amount of oxygen your body's tissues and organs receive. This causes you to have a lower tolerance for physical activity and your skin to have a bluish or a grayish color. Cyanosis will worsen over time.
  • High red blood cell count. Because you aren't getting enough oxygen-rich blood circulating throughout your body, your kidneys release a hormone that increases your number of red blood cells — the cells that carry oxygen throughout your body. The increase in red blood cells allows more oxygen to be delivered to the body's tissues, which is an important way the body compensates for decreased oxygen levels.
  • Irregular heart rhythm. Enlargement and thickening of the walls in the heart, along with low oxygen levels, may cause an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Some types of arrhythmias can cause blood to pool in your heart's chambers, where it can clot. If the clot travels out of your heart and blocks an artery, you can have a heart attack or stroke.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest. If you develop an abnormal rhythm from the bottom chamber of the heart (the ventricle), the heart rate can be too fast to allow the heart to effectively pump blood to the body, and can eventually cause the heart to stop functioning. Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. Without immediate medical attention, you can die of sudden cardiac arrest in minutes.

    You can also go into cardiac arrest during surgical procedures, usually related to changes in blood pressure caused by anesthesia.

  • Heart failure. The increased pressure in your heart can cause your heart muscle to weaken, making it harder for your heart to pump blood. Eventually, this can lead to heart failure.
  • Coughing up blood. Increased pressure in the lungs and problems with your blood caused by Eisenmenger syndrome can cause life-threatening bleeding into your lungs and airways. This can cause you to cough up blood and further lower your blood oxygen level. Bleeding can also occur in other parts of the body.
  • Stroke. If a blood clot travels from the right to left side of the heart without being filtered out by your lungs, the clot may then block a blood vessel in the brain, leading to a stroke.
  • Kidney problems. Low oxygen levels in your blood may lead to problems with your kidneys. Eisenmenger syndrome can also increase your risk of developing gout.
  • Increased risk of infection. People with Eisenmenger syndrome have a higher risk of infection in the heart (endocarditis).
  • Pregnancy risks. Due to the demands pregnancy puts on a mother's heart and lungs, women who have Eisenmenger syndrome shouldn't become pregnant. Pregnancy for a woman who has Eisenmenger syndrome poses a high risk of death for both the mother and baby.

Eisenmenger syndrome is a life-threatening condition. The prognosis for people diagnosed with Eisenmenger syndrome depends on the type of congenital heart defect and other medical conditions. Some people diagnosed with Eisenmenger syndrome have survived into their 50s, 60s or even longer.