The Henry Ford difference
- Expertise: Our specialists have expert knowledge and skills in all facets of cardiomyopathy treatment, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and advanced heart failure. In addition, our team has special expertise with related complex conditions such as amyloidosis and sarcoidosis.
- Personalized treatment plans: Our team meets regularly to discuss every case, ensuring that your care plan is customized to your specific needs. We also work with experts from other Henry Ford specialties as necessary, including heart surgery, heart failure, structural heart and electrophysiology.
- Accurate diagnosis: Complex conditions require the most advanced diagnostics. We offer the latest testing procedures available.
- Range of treatments: We offer the full spectrum of treatment options for all types of the disease and related complex conditions.
- Mechanical circulatory support (MCS): In many cases of advanced heart failure, the treatment involves MCS, and Henry Ford is a Joint Commission Approved Center of Excellence for MCS. We are a large volume center with outcomes that are superior to the national average. Most commonly we implant durable left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), a type of heart pump.
- Heart transplant: If you have heart failure so severe that no other form of treatment is helping, you may need a heart transplant. Our experience in this area goes back to 1985 when we performed the first heart transplant in Detroit.
- Genetic counseling for pregnancy: If your cardiomyopathy was inherited, you may be at greater risk for passing this on to your child. If you plan to have children, we offer genetic counseling and guidance during pregnancy.
Types of cardiomyopathy
There are several main types of the disease, which are defined based on the specific ways that your heart structure changes as a result of the disease:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy: This is the most common type. In this form, the muscles of the heart’s ventricles (pumping chambers) stretch and become thinner, This weakens the muscles, leading to an enlarged heart that cannot pump as efficiently.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This genetic condition causes the heart’s septum (wall) to become thicker and stiffer. It can affect all ages, but it is the #1 cause of death in people under 35, including sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy: This type occurs when the muscles in your ventricles become stiff or scarred. At first, your heart may still be able to pump, but over time, the rigid muscles restrict the ventricles and prevent them from filling up with enough blood.
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy: In this type, heart muscle is weakened or lost as the result of restricted blood flow, which causes a shortage of oxygen (ischemia) to the heart muscle. Typically, this is caused by coronary artery disease, which is when one or more heart arteries become narrowed or blocked due to a buildup of plaque, a waxy substance made up of cholesterol and other materials.
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia: This form is a genetic condition where the muscle in the right ventricle dies and is replaced by fat and scar tissue. As with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, this is one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
While these are the main types of the disease, there are several other forms that have specific causes.
These conditions may either be inherited or develop as the result of another disease or other factor, including:
- A family history of cardiomyopathy, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest
- Coronary artery disease or heart attack
- Long-term alcoholism (alcoholic cardiomyopathy)
- High blood pressure
- Amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, hemochromatosis and other diseases that can damage the heart
- Heart infections
- Diabetes, thyroid conditions and other endocrine diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Muscular dystrophy or other muscle conditions
- As a complication of pregnancy or childbirth (peripartum or postpartum cardiomyopathy)
- Broken heart syndrome (stress-induced cardiomyopathy)
- A congenital heart defect that causes abnormal development of the heart muscle (noncompaction cardiomyopathy)
In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed. When there are symptoms, they may include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath, feeling week
- Fainting attacks, dizziness or lightheadedness
- High blood pressure
- Edema, or swelling of the body’s organs and tissues
- Feeling nauseated or bloated after eating and/or legs feel puffy all day
- Having a hard time controlling your fluid levels
Cardiomyopathy may be diagnosed through a number of methods, including a thorough medical and family history, and physical exam. Your physician also may order one or more diagnostic tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Heart positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- Heart computed tomography (CT) scan
- Cardiac catheterization
- Holter and event monitors (portable devices that record your heart’s electrical activity)
- Heart magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Exercise stress testing
- Genetic testing and counseling
Many patients with cardiomyopathy are treated medically. Depending on the specific type and severity of your condition, your personalized treatment plan also may include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Minimally invasive structural heart procedures
- An implanted device such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or an LVAD
- Heart transplant
- Clinical trials
- Special cardiac rehabilitation programs