What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy (kahr-dee-o-my-OP-uh-thee) is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
The main types of cardiomyopathy include dilated hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Treatment — which might include medications, surgically implanted devices or, in severe cases, a heart transplant — depends on which type of cardiomyopathy you have and how serious it is.
The diagnosis of cardiomyopathy is often clear from an individual's descriptions of his or her symptoms, the results of a physical examination, and the results of a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and electrocardiogram.
Occasionally, a test called an endomyocardial biopsy is necessary. In this test, a catheter is inserted into a vein in the neck and passed down into the heart. A small piece of the inner heart wall is removed using a tiny metal device at the tip of the catheter. The sample of heart tissue is then examined under the microscope.
While the treatment of a cardiomyopathy depends upon the specific cause, the goal for therapy is to maximize cardiac output, maintain ejection fraction, and prevent further heart muscle damage and loss of function.
If the cardiomyopathy is associated with electrical disturbances, heart pacemakers may be implanted to provide stable, coordinated electrical impulses to the heart muscle.
If there is a potential for sudden cardiac death, an implanted defibrillator may be considered. The device can recognize ventricular fibrillation, a rhythm that does not allow the heart to contract and delivers an electrical shock to return the heart to a coordinated stable rhythm. If indicated, there are some implanted devices that are both pacemakers and defibrillators.
Severe cardiomyopathies may not be able to be controlled or treated with medication, diet, or other surgical interventions. In this situation, heart transplantation may be a consideration as a final option.