Cardiomyopathy

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Cardiomyopathy means “disease of the heart muscle.” It can be acquired or inherited.

Many people live with cardiomyopathy, unaware that they have the condition.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center offers a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating cardiomyopathy with the convenience of all services at one location.

What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the heart muscle.

In cardiomyopathy, the damaged heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid, and cannot pump blood effectively.

It's the leading cause of heart failure and the most common reason for needing a heart transplant.

Unlike other heart problems, cardiomyopathy frequently affects younger people.

Cardiomyopathy risk factors

Cardiomyopathy risk factors include:

  • A family history of cardiomyopathy
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Viral infection
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Certain chemotherapy medicines
  • Conditions that can damage the heart, such as:
    • Hemochromatosis
    • Sarcoidosis
    • Amyloidosis

Cardiomyopathy types and complications

Dilated cardiomyopathy

  • Most common form
  • Damaged heart muscles lead to an enlarged and floppy heart
  • Heart stretches as it tries to compensate for weakened pumping action
  • Often produces signs of congestive heart failure, such as breathlessness and fluid retention
  • Can lead to the formation of clots
  • Rarely, can occur after pregnancy, this is known as peripartum cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

  • Second most common form; most often inherited
  • Causes heart wall to thicken, leaving less space for blood in the chambers and making the heart work harder to pump blood out
  • Can affect people of all ages

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

  • Causes portions of the heart wall to become rigid and lose flexibility
  • Heart chambers are unable to fill with blood properly because of stiffness in the heart

Why choose the UPMC Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center for care?

At UPMC's Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Center, people with HCM have access to:

  • Coordinated, state-of-the-art care for the diagnosis and treatment of this complex heart disease.
  • Innovative treatment options based on the latest research protocols for HCM.
  • A team of experts in HCM disease management, advanced cardiac imaging, and cardiovascular genetics.

To make an appointment or refer a patient, contact the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute.

Cardiomyopathy Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cardiomyopathy symptoms

Cardiomyopathy symptoms are associated with heart failure or arrhythmia, and may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

If you have such symptoms and are at risk for cardiomyopathy, see your doctor for a physical exam.

Diagnosing cardiomyopathy

To confirm a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, your doctor at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center may order additional tests and procedures to check your heart's function.

These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • An echocardiogram
  • An electrocardiogram

Testing results
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.

To make an appointment or refer a patient, contact the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute.

Cardiomyopathy Treatment

At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Center, our overall treatment goals are to:

Treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have and the seriousness of your condition.

There is no definitive cure for HCM, but most people are able to live long, healthy lives under the care of their doctors.

Treatment options for cardiomyopathy

  • Lifestyle changes
    • Stopping alcohol use
    • Monitoring salt intake
  • Medicines
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Help your heart pump
    • Reduce excess fluid
  • Surgically implanted device that helps maintain proper heart rhythm
  • Ablation procedure
    • Removes extra heart tissue to reduce thickening
    • Helps heart perform better
  • Heart transplant (for a severely damaged heart)

Surgical options for cardiomyopathy

If the obstruction of outflow of blood from the left ventricle to the body is extremely severe, the thickened heart muscle can be “trimmed” using one of two surgical techniques:

  • Surgical myectomy — open-heart surgery performed to cut away the portion of the muscle that is thickened, relieving the obstruction to blood flow.
  • Alcohol septal ablation — a heart catheterization procedure used to introduce a catheter into one of the small arteries that brings blood to the abnormally thickened septum; alcohol is injected into the artery to reduce the size of the muscle.

To make an appointment or refer a patient, contact the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute.

Cardiomyopathy Educational Materials

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers educational materials about cardiomyopathy and other heart and vascular conditions and treatments.

Many people find these resources helpful in answering their questions about their condition and preparing for a procedure or diagnostic test.

The links below will open in a new browser window.

UPMC Patient Education Materials

National Resources

Emmi ™ Patient Education Videos

From our Health Library at UPMC.com

To make an appointment or refer a patient, contact the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute.

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