Pathology dictionary



What does hypertrophy mean?

Hypertrophy means an increase in tissue size. It is a non-cancerous change. Another word for hypertrophy is hypertrophic. Hypertrophy typically happens because tissues respond to increased physical demands by becoming larger. When examined under the microscope, the cells in tissues that have undergone this change are larger than the cells normally found in that location. Hypertrophy can be a normal, healthy process that allows the tissue to function better or an abnormal process that leads to impaired function and disease.

Examples hypertrophy

  • Muscles: Physical exercise leads to skeletal muscle hypertrophy. This makes the muscles stronger and better able to handle physical stress.
  • Uterus: The muscles in the uterus undergo hypertrophy during pregnancy. This allows the uterus to grow along with the developing baby.
  • Heart: The heart can increase in size as a result of physical exercise, long-standing high blood pressure, obstruction to blood flow out of the heart, or genetic conditions that affect the growth of muscle cells in the heart.

Hypertrophy versus hyperplasia

Hypertrophy and hyperplasia both cause the tissue to increase in size. However, unlike hypertrophy, hyperplasia is associated with an increased number of cells not an increase in the size of each cell.

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