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Giant left atrium: a forgotten cause of cardiomegaly
  1. Benoy Nalin Shah1,2,
  2. Michael Rubens3
  1. 1Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, National Heart & Lung Institute, Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, Middlesex, UK
  3. 3Department of Cardiothoracic Radiology, Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Benoy Nalin Shah, Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NP, UK; benoy{at}

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Chest radiography remains the first and thus the most common form of cardiac imaging in contemporary practice. The plain chest x-ray (CXR) can reveal significant information about underlying pathology in the heart and lungs. In the case presented below, the CXR illustrated several features classical of ‘giant left atrium’, infrequently encountered in western countries due to its association with rheumatic heart disease. Two dimensional echocardiography confirmed massive left atrial (LA) dilatation, the cause of cardiomegaly on CXR.

Clinical case

A 76-year-old man was admitted to hospital with a three day history of fever, lethargy, increasing dyspnoea and abdominal swelling. He had childhood rheumatic fever and had undergone mechanical mitral valve replacement 13 years previously. He also had known severe tricuspid regurgitation and chronic …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.