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What is cardiomyopathy?

The heart is a muscle. "Cardiomyopathy" means a disease of the heart muscle.

There are several types of cardiomyopathy. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart is enlarged and has trouble pumping. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle is thickened, often restricting blood flow. In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the walls of the heart are stiff and can't function as well.

Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure, heart rhythm problems, and sudden cardiac arrest.

What are the symptoms?

Patients may have no symptoms in the initial stages of cardiomyopathy. As the disease progresses, symptoms tend to get worse.

Most common symptoms of cardiomyopathy are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

How is it treated?

  • Medication. Many medications are available that can help improve symptoms, boost heart function and increase survival.
  • Surgery. By removing or destroying part of the thickened heart muscle through surgery, the function of the heart may be substantially improved.
  • Alcohol septal ablation for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This percutaneous, minimally-invasive treatment is performed by an interventional cardiologist to reduce the obstruction to blood being ejected from the heart; the technique creates a small controlled heart attack, killing the area of heart muscle responsible for the obstruction, and eventually causing it to become less thick.
  • Implantable defibrillator If you are at risk of sudden cardiac death, your cardiologist may recommend an implantable defibrillator. Should your heart stop, a shock from the defibrillator can restore your heart's normal rhythm.
  • Pacemaker. For some people with cardiomyopathy, the implantation of a pacemaker can help to regulate the rhythm of the heart.

What is Lee Health's approach?

Lee Health is the largest health system in the region. The research we perform here keeps us on the leading edge of treatments for heart disease.

Who should I contact?

If you have symptoms of cardiomyopathy, contact Lee Health at 239-343-6350. For Pediatric Cardiology, please call our doctors at 239-343-7490.