Cardiomyopathy includes diseases of the heart muscle that reduce the heart’s ability to pump effectively. These diseases enlarge your heart muscle or make it thicker and more rigid than normal.
There are many types of cardiomyopathy. Some of the more common are:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart becomes weak and the chambers get large. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough blood out to the body.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick. This makes it harder for blood to leave the heart.
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy - caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. It makes the heart walls thin so they do not pump well.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy - a group of disorders. The heart chambers are unable to fill with blood because the heart muscle is stiff.
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy - occurs during pregnancy or in the first 5 months afterward.
The causes of cardiomyopathy are not always known. It can be inherited, meaning that it’s caused by genes passed down from your parents. It can also be acquired, meaning that you develop it because of another condition or risk factor.
Cardiomyopathy Risk Factors
Conditions and risk factors that may lead to cardiomyopathy include:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Viral infections that may injure the heart
- Metabolic disorders, such as obesity, thyroid disease or diabetes
- Heavy alcohol or drug use
As cardiomyopathy progresses and the heart weakens, signs and symptoms of heart failure usually occur. These include:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing, especially with physical activity
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen or veins in the neck
- Abdominal bloating caused by fluid buildup
- Irregular heartbeats
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Because cardiomyopathy weakens the heart, it’s important to get treated. Treatment can prevent the disease from getting worse, control symptoms and reduce your risk for serious complications, including:
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
- Heart valve disease
- Sudden cardiac arrest
Our experienced heart and vascular specialists use a range of tools to find and diagnose cardiomyopathy. The most common tests your physician may recommend are:
- Blood and stress tests
- Cardiac MRI
- Chest X-ray
- Diagnostic catheterization, including angiogram and myocardial biopsy
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Event and Holter monitor to record your heart’s electrical activity over 24 to 48 hours
Your treatment will depend on which type of cardiomyopathy you have: inherited or acquired. Our expert cardiology team will develop a personalized treatment plan for you, which may include one or more of the following:
- Pacemaker (ICD)
- Heart transplant
- Ventricular assist device (VAD)
- Alcohol Septal Ablation
Only you and your doctor can decide which treatment is right for you. All of our patients receive pre-operative counseling to help them understand the risks and benefits of procedures.
Heart and Vascular Center
Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center combines cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to patient- and family-centered care. At the Heart and Vascular Center, our philosophy is clear: patients come first. We offer the latest in technology, devices and medication combined with personalized care, to offer life-changing vascular and heart disease treatments.