Right Heart Structural and Functional Remodeling in Athletes

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Abstract

Long-term intensive exercise training programs lead to numerous progressive cardiac adaptations, which are collectively termed “athlete's heart.” Noninvasive diagnostic techniques, such as color Doppler echocardiography, have been widely used in the analysis of the athlete's heart. Initial experiences focused mainly on left heart adaptations to training. However, in recent years, substantial structural and functional adaptations of the right heart have been documented. The present review article focuses on recent data defining right heart adaptation to short- and long-term periods of exercise training. Right ventricular (RV) morphology and function may be more profoundly affected by intense exercise and, in some cases, functional recovery may be incomplete. Moreover, there is speculation that such changes may represent a substrate for proarrhythmic RV remodeling in some highly trained athletes, even in the absence of a known familial redisposition.

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