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Cardiomyopathy


Overview :

Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, primarily affects the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart. The disease is often associated with inadequate heart pumping and other heart function abnormalities. Cardiomyopathy is not common (affecting about 50,000 persons in the United States) but it can be severely disabling or fatal. Severe cases may result in heart failure and will require a heart transplant for patient survival. Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that not only affects middle-aged and elderly persons, but can also affect infants, children, and adolescents.

There are four major types of cardiomyopathy:

  • Dilated (congestive cardiomyopathy). This is the most common form of the disease. The heart cavity is enlarged and stretched (cardiac dilation), which results in weak and slow pumping of the blood, which in turn can result in the formation of blood clots. Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and disturbances in the electrical conduction processes in the heart may also occur. Most patients with this type of cardiomyopathy develop congestive heart failure. There is also a genetically-linked cardiac disease, Barth syndrome, that can cause dilated cardiomyopathy. This syndrome affects male children, and is usually diagnosed at birth or within the first few months of life. Pregnant women during the last trimester of pregnancy or after childbirth may develop a type of dilated cardiomyopathy referred to as peripartum cardiomyopathy.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. With this type of cardiomyopathy, the muscle mass of the left ventricle enlarges, or hypertrophies. In hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), the septum (wall) between the two heart ventricles (the pumping chambers) becomes enlarged and obstructs blood flow from the left ventricle. The thickened wall can also distort one leaflet of the mitral valve, which results in leakage. HOCM is most common in young adults. HOCM is often hereditary, caused by genetic mutations in the affected person's DNA. The disease is either inherited through one parent who is a carrier or through both parents who each contribute a defective gene. HOCM is also referred to as asymmetrical septal hypertrophy (ASH) or idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (IHSS). In another form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, non-obstructive cardiomyopathy, the enlarged heart muscle does not obstruct the blood flow through the heart.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. This is a less common type of cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle of the ventricles becomes rigid. Restrictive cardiomyopathy affects the diastolic function of the heart, that is, it affects the period when the heart is relaxing between contractions. Since the heart cannot relax adequately between contractions, it is harder for the ventricles to fill with blood between heartbeats. This type of cardiomyopathy is usually the result of another disease.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). ARVC is very rare and is believed to be an inherited condition. With ARVC, heart muscle cells become disorganized and damaged and are replaced by fatty tissues. The damage appears to be a result of the body's inability to remove damaged cells. The damaged cells are replaced with fat, leading to abnormal electrical activity (arrhythmias) and abnormal heart contractions. ARVC is the most common cause of sudden death in athletes.




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