Heart Muscle Disease

Advanced Care and Treatments for Heart Muscle Diseases

Patients living with heart muscle diseases choose the heart specialists at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute to provide them with advanced heart care and treatments. At UH, we use various tools and therapies to keep your condition under control and reduce the risk of arrhythmias, heart attack or heart failure.

Also known as cardiomyopathy, heart muscle diseases affect the heart muscle and the way it pumps blood throughout your body. Heart muscle diseases cause enlargement or thickening of the heart muscle and force it to work harder. Although they are often inherited, heart muscle diseases can also occur because of a variety of lifestyle choices and conditions including:

Types of Heart Muscle Diseases

There are several types of heart muscle diseases. The most common ones include:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy: This is the most common type of heart muscle disease and causes the heart to weaken and the chambers to enlarge. It prevents the heart from being able to pump enough blood out to the body.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often inherited and leads to the thickening of the heart muscle, making it difficult for blood to leave the heart.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy: In this rare heart muscle disease, the heart muscles stiffen and the ventricles of the heart cannot relax and fill with blood between heartbeats as a result.

Advanced Imaging Techniques to Confirm Specific Conditions

To confirm you have a heart muscle disease and identify its type, our UH heart specialists use a number of advanced imaging techniques including:

  • Blood test: Counts your red and white blood cells as well as your hemoglobin levels and other components of your blood.
  • Chest X-ray: Produces images of your heart, lungs, airways and blood vessels.
  • Cardiac catheterization: Inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a large blood vessel that leads to your heart to determine how well your heart is working.
  • Echocardiogram (Echo): Uses ultrasonic waves to assess your heart’s structure and function.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): Records the electrical activity of your heart over a period of time.
  • Stress exercise testing: Determines how your heart functions when the body is under physical stress.

Life-Saving Treatments at University Hospitals

If you are diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy, we will determine the cause and provide treatments to improve your heart function. Lifestyle changes coupled with medications are usually necessary to treat cardiomyopathy. We may recommend one or a few of the following procedures or types of heart surgery:

  • Defibrillator: A defibrillator sends an electrical pulse to put an end to arrhythmias.
  • Coronary artery bypass (CABG surgery): This surgery is designed to improve blood flow to the weakened heart muscle.
  • Heart transplant: A heart transplant is usually a last resort and only performed when other treatments have been ineffective.
  • Implantable artificial heart pumps: Implantable artificial heart pumps may be suggested if your case is severe. An artificial heart pump can restore a failing heart and eliminate the need for heart transplant.
  • Pacemaker: A pacemaker helps both sides of the heart beat simultaneously.

Genetic Testing for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Genetic testing may be an option for you if you have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited disease. Our genetic counselors can identify the genes that put your parents, siblings and/or children at risk of this condition. This way, your family members can receive the care they need before any serious symptoms develop. If you would like more information about genetic testing, or any of our cardiovascular expertise, contact one of our team members at University Hospitals.