Situs inversus

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Situs inversus
Situs inversus - Mirrored heart and lungs.jpg
Situs inversus causes the positions of the heart and lungs to be mirrored.
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 Q89.3
ICD-9 759.3
OMIM 270100
DiseasesDB 29885
eMedicine radio/639
MeSH D012857

Situs inversus (also called situs transversus or oppositus) is a congenital condition in which the major visceral organs are reversed or mirrored from their normal positions. The normal arrangement is known as situs solitus. In other rare cases such as situs ambiguus or heterotaxy, situs cannot be determined.

Situs inversus is present in ca. 0.01% of the population, or a 1 in 10,000 chance.[1]


The term situs inversus is a short form of the Latin phrase "situs inversus viscerum", meaning "inverted position of the internal organs".


Dextrocardia (the heart being located on the right side of the thorax) was first seen and drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in 1452–1519,[citation needed] and then recognised by Marco Aurelio Severino in 1643.[citation needed] However, situs inversus was first described more than a century later by Matthew Baillie.[citation needed]

Effect on anatomy[edit]

The condition affects all major structures within the thorax and abdomen. Generally, the organs are simply transposed through the sagittal plane. The heart is located on the right side of the thorax, the stomach and spleen on the right side of the abdomen and the liver and gall bladder on the left side. The left lung is trilobed and the right lung bilobed, and blood vessels, nerves, lymphatics and the intestines are also transposed.

If the heart is swapped to the right side of the thorax, it is known as "situs inversus with dextrocardia" or "situs inversus totalis". If the heart remains on the normal left side of the thorax, a much more rare condition (1 in 2,000,000 of the general population), it is known as "situs inversus with levocardia" or "situs inversus incompletus".


Situs inversus has an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance.

Situs inversus is generally an autosomal recessive genetic condition, although it can be X-linked or found in identical "mirror image" twins.[2][3]

In the absence of congenital heart defects, individuals with situs inversus are phenotypically normal, and can live normal healthy lives, without any complications related to their medical condition. There is a 5 –10% prevalence of congenital heart disease in individuals with situs inversus totalis, most commonly transposition of the great vessels. The incidence of congenital heart disease is 95% in situs inversus with levocardia.

Many people with situs inversus totalis are unaware of their unusual anatomy until they seek medical attention for an unrelated condition. The reversal of the organs may then lead to some confusion, as many signs and symptoms will be on the atypical side. For example, if an individual with situs inversus develops appendicitis, they will present to the physician with lower left abdominal pain, since that is where their appendix lies.[3][4] Thus, in the event of a medical problem, the knowledge that the individual has situs inversus can expedite diagnosis. People with this rare condition may inform their physicians before an examination, so the physician can redirect their search for heart sounds and other signs. Wearing a medical identification tag can help to inform health care providers in the event the person is unable to communicate.

Situs inversus also complicates organ transplantation operations as donor organs will more likely come from situs solitus (normal) donors. As hearts and livers are chiral, geometric problems arise placing an organ into a cavity shaped in the mirror image. For example, a person with situs inversus who requires a heart transplant needs all the vessels to the transplant donor heart reattached to their existing ones. However, the orientation of these vessels in a person with situs inversus is reversed, necessitating steps so that the blood vessels join properly.

Kartagener syndrome[edit]

Further information: primary ciliary dyskinesia
Axial CT image showing dextrocardia and situs inversus in a patient with Kartagener syndrome.
Axial CT image showing situs inversus (liver and IVC on the left, spleen and aorta on the right) in a patient with Kartagener syndrome.

About 25% of individuals with situs inversus have an underlying condition known as primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). PCD is a dysfunction of the cilia that manifests itself during the embryologic phase of development. Normally functioning cilia determine the position of the internal organs during early embryological development, and so embryos with PCD have a 50% chance of developing situs inversus. If they do, they are said to have Kartagener syndrome, characterized by the triad of situs inversus, chronic sinusitis, and bronchiectasis. Cilia are also responsible for clearing mucus from the lung, and the dysfunction causes increased susceptibility to lung infections. Kartagener Syndrome can also manifest with male infertility as functional cilia are required for proper sperm flagella function.

Notable persons with situs inversus[edit]

Notable individuals with documented cases of situs inversus include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Situs inversus on eMedicine
  2. ^ Gedda L, Sciacca A, Brenci G et al. (1984). "Situs viscerum specularis in monozygotic twins". Acta Genet Med Gemellol (Roma) 33 (1): 81–5. PMID 6540028. 
  3. ^ a b O Ngim, L Adams, A Achaka, O Busari, O Rahaman, I Ukpabio, D Eduwem. (2013). "Left-Sided Acute Appendicitis With Situs Inversus Totalis In A Nigerian Male – A Case Report And Review Of Literature.". The Internet Journal of Surgery. 30 (4). 
  4. ^ Intestinal malrotation can also cause the appendix to be on the left side.
  5. ^ Rookie T-Wolf's Organs Reversed[dead link]
  6. ^
  7. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]