Cardiomyopathy is a condition that enlarges the heart muscle, making it harder for to pump blood through the body. Symptoms can include irregular heartbeats, dizziness, fatigue and bloating. Left untreated, cardiomyopathy can worsen over time and may lead to blood clots, heart murmurs and heart failure.
The three types of cardiomyopathy are:
- Dilated – is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. The disorder enlarges the left ventricle and impedes blood flow. It is more likely to affect middle-aged men and people with a family history of the condition.
- Hypertrophic - involves abnormal growth or thickening of the heart muscle, which can shrink the muscle and interfering with your heart's ability to deliver blood to your body. Most people with the condition have a family history.
- Restrictive – causes the heart muscle to be less elastic. It is the least common type of cardiomyopathy and can be caused by diseases that affect the heart.
How is it diagnosed?
After performing a complete physical and taking a family medical history, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and conduct tests to determine a diagnosis. These tests include:
- Chest X-ray – provides doctors with images of your heart to determine if it is enlarged.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms and detects heart muscle damage.
- Echocardiogram – creates a two-dimensional picture of the cardiovascular system and can also produce an accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound.
- Electrophysiology (EPS) studies – are usually performed in a cardiac catheterization laboratory. In this procedure, a long, thin tube (called a catheter) is inserted through an artery in your leg and guided to your heart. A map of electrical impulses from your heart is sent through the wire to find out what kind of arrhythmia you have and where it starts. During the study, doctors can give you controlled electrical impulses to show how your heart reacts. Medicines may also be tested at this time to see which ones will stop the arrhythmia.
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – is an imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of your heart.
- Blood tests – can measure proteins in your heart to determine if you have a common complication of cardiomyopathy.
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How is it treated?
Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy, doctors may utilize a number of treatments, including:
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) – is a pacemaker device implanted in the chest to stimulate both of the lower chambers and regulate heartbeat. These devices are also referred to as biventricular pacemakers.
- Pacemaker – is a small device implanted in the chest that continuously monitor heart rate and deliver an electrical impulse to restore a normal heart rate, when needed.
- Internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – is a surgically implanted device that continuously monitors the heart rhythm and delivers therapy only when necessary.
- Heart transplant – is a treatment for severe cardiomyopathy where medications don’t control symptoms. While patients wait for an available donor heart, a ventricular assist device may be implanted to help the blood circulate.
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How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Advocate Christ Medical Center is at the forefront of diagnosis and treatment for all cardiovascular conditions, including cardiomyopathy. Our Center for Heart Transplantation and Assist Devices is nationally recognized. Cardiac surgeons at Christ Medical Center were first in the United States to implant the HeartMate II® ventricular assist device (VAD) for destination therapy. We were the first center in Illinois and second nationally to be certified by The Joint Commission as a ventricular assist device (VAD) program for destination therapy. And Christ Medical Center is one of the Midwest’s busiest centers when it comes to implanting defibrillator and pacemakers.
Our team of board certified electrophysiologists, cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons work together to develop individualized treatment plans. Patients are guided through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by our clinical nurse coordinator. Our physicians regularly update referring doctors to ensure continuity of care and ongoing communication.
Whether a patient requires medication, cardiac resynchronization therapy or complex surgeries, the doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center provide compassionate care on the cutting edge.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What causes cardiomyopathy?
The exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown, but there are contributing factors that can lead to the condition:
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve problems
- Previous heart attack
- Rapid heart rate
- Thyroid disease
- Excessive alcohol use
- Viral infections
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. But as the condition advances, symptoms may include:
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid heartbeat
What are the risk factors?
People with a family history of cardiomyopathy are at greater risk of developing the condition. Men also have a higher risk.
If any medical treatments are ordered by my doctor, will my insurance cover them?
Depending on the type of coverage, most commercial insurance carriers will pay the major share of the cost. You should always consult your insurance company to determine proper coverage.
Who provides the medical care?
The team at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by specialized electrophysiologists, cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, nurses, and other specialists who have extensive experiencing treating patients with cardiomyopathy. You will remain under the care of your primary care physician and cardiologist while you are treated by the specialists at Christ Medical Center. To ensure that your physician is kept up-to-date, our team will provide ongoing reports on the progress you have made.
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