The heart and lungs work in tandem. Both are anatomically and physiologically linked to provide a long laundry list of functions that allow us to survive. Patients are often surprised with how much time we may spend in questioning them about any heart issues they may have, and explaining how their heart problems may cause symptoms such as shortness of breath which has nothing to do with lung function.
The heart has two sides; the left side which is very muscular and pumps the blood to the entire body, then there is the right side which pumps blood primarily to the lungs. Cardiologists have focused on the left side for decades, with the right side not getting the attention pulmonologists felt it deserved.
The right side of the heart is becoming more of a topic of discussion, not only by lung specialists, but cardiologists as well. The function, or at times dysfunction, of the right side of the heart can cause significant problems for patients not only with heart disease, but often with lung disease as well. Some complaints of shortness of breath may be exclusively related to right heart dysfunction, and problems with right heart function may be the result of certain lung diseases.
Like many complex medical issues, diagnosing right heart problems is not easy and often requires specialized tests, such as echocardiography and right heart catheterization, to measure the pressures in the heart and the blood vessels of the lungs. More focus is now on the right side.