Dextrocardia (from Latin dexter-, on the right-hand side, and Greek kardia-, heart) is a rare condition in which the human heart is on the right side of the chest, instead of the left (the normal position of the human heart is known as levocardia). It is rarely a life-threatening condition in and of itself in adults, but often contributes to other cogenital defects or heart diseases, and it is often accompanied by situs invertus.
Due to its curiosity, it shows up frequently in murder mysteries and police television shows. Unlike in many television depictions, dextrocardia is no defense against a shot or stab to the heart; while it may keep a penetrating wound from being instantly fatal, the wound is still likely to be mortal, probably puncturing the lungs and possibly damaging major arteries and veins.
Dextrocardia with situs inversus
The most common cause of dextrocardia is situs invertus, a defect in which the major internal organs of the human body are placed in a mirror image: left becomes right, and vice versa. In this case, the heart is in the correct position relative to the mirrored internal organs.
This "defect" is fairly common: about 1 in 11,000, slightly more common in men than in women, although the actual frequency may be higher as it is entirely possible to live a long, normal life without ever knowing one has dextrocardia. However, there are medical issues that the dextrocardic should consider. It can complicate surgeries, especially if it has gone undetected. Its presence is often caused by the same combination of genes that cause other, more severe heart disease. Finally, it causes problems with organ donation, as compatible organs are rare.
Dextrocardia without situs inversus
Without situs inversus (or in the case of levocardia with situs inversus), dextrocardia is a much more severe condition, which has no easy treatment.