Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is characterised by left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) that is disproportionate to the haemodynamic load. It results in abnormal left ventricular wall stiffness that causes impaired diastolic filling.
Adults with increased left ventricular thickness secondary to diseases such as amyloidosis and glycogen storage disease are usually excluded from the definition.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common familial genetic disease of the heart (1/500 to 1/1,000). The prevalence is estimated to be 0.2%.
- It is also the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people and athletes.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy most commonly presents in the second or third decade of life, but may present at any age.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is generally inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with variable penetrance and expressivity.
- Mutations in sarcomeric protein genes account for about 60% of cases.
- Troponin T mutations have an increased risk of sudden death, which can occur without evidence of significant left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).
- A minority of cases reflect a sporadic, non-familial form of the disease.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is slightly more prevalent in males.
- Add notes to any clinical page and create a reflective diary
- Automatically track and log every page you have viewed
- Print and export a summary to use in your appraisal
- The presentation is variable and includes dyspnoea (the most common presenting symptom), chest pain, palpitations and syncope.
- The presentation may be incidental on an abnormal ECG or clinical examination.
- The severity may vary between few or no symptoms and profound exercise limitation, recurrent arrhythmias or sudden death.
- Alcohol ingestion can cause dyspnoea or syncope.
- Unexplained syncope is a risk marker for sudden death.
- Examination may be normal. Abnormal clinical findings include:
- Left ventricular outflow tract obstruction may cause a rapid upstroke and a rapid downstroke in the arterial pulse.
- The JVP 'a' wave may be prominent due to reduced right ventricular compliance.
- Outflow tract obstruction may cause a systolic murmur at the left sternal edge, radiating to the aortic and mitral areas.
- Most patients with left ventricular outflow murmurs also have mitral regurgitation.
- Some patients have an abnormal blood pressure response during upright exercise and systolic blood pressure fails to rise by more than 20-25 mm Hg from baseline values, or falls.
Other causes of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH):
- Infants and young children:
- Most cases are associated with congenital malformations and syndromes, inherited metabolic disorders and neuromuscular diseases.
- Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is less frequent in children than in adults.
- Autosomal dominant disorders that present in the young with LVH include Noonan's syndrome.
- Occasionally, some children and adolescents present with LVH several years before the development of the neurological and endocrine features of Friedreich's ataxia.
- Adults and adolescents:
- Most adolescents and adults with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have familial disease with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance.
- Some adult patients have non-sarcomeric diseases, eg Anderson-Fabry disease, mitochondrial disease.
- Other causes of LVH include obesity, athletic training, amyloidosis and phaeochromocytoma.
- Two-dimensional echocardiography: This demonstrates left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and is diagnostic for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The features of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include:
- Marked, asymmetrical LVH - maximum left ventricular wall thickness greater than 15 mm
- Most patients have a disproportionate increase in the thickness of the interventricular septum.
- A non-dilated left ventricular cavity.
- Preserved systolic function.
- Left ventricular outflow obstruction at rest is present in about 20% of patients. The magnitude of obstruction is usually measured by continuous wave Doppler.
- Obstruction of the right ventricular outflow tract is rare.
- Absence of other cardiovascular diseases capable of producing a similar degree of hypertrophy.
- Findings include ST-T wave abnormalities and LVH, right or left axis deviation, conduction abnormalities, sinus bradycardia with ectopic atrial rhythm, and atrial enlargement.
- Voltage criteria for LVH alone are nonspecific and are often seen in normal young adults.
- The most common arrhythmias are premature ventricular complexes, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia and supraventricular tachyarrhythmias.
- Paroxysmal or chronic atrial fibrillation develops in about 20% of adult patients and is associated with an increased risk of death due to heart failure.
- Ambulatory electrocardiography: findings often include atrial and ventricular ectopy, sinus pauses, wandering atrial pacemaker, intermittent or variable atrioventricular (AV) block, and nonsustained atrial and/or ventricular arrhythmias.
- Chest X-ray: Findings are variable:
- Heart size may range from normal to markedly increased.
- Left atrial enlargement is often seen, especially when significant mitral regurgitation is present.
- Cardiac MRI:
- Cardiac catheterisation: This may be useful to determine the degree of outflow obstruction, diastolic characteristics of the left ventricle, and the anatomy of the ventricles and coronary arteries.
- Exercise testing with simultaneous respiratory gas analysis is used to assess disease severity.
- Endomyocardial biopsy may be required to exclude other causes of increased wall thickness, eg amyloid.
- Screening for metabolic causes of unexplained hypertrophy is appropriate for affected infants and children.
- Genetic counselling and clinical risk assessment.
- Many interventions, including septal alcohol ablation, septal myectomy, and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), are appropriate only for certain patients.
- Heart transplantation may be necessary in patients with refractory heart failure.
Risk stratification and prevention of sudden death
- Sudden death is the most common cause of death in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and occurs more often in young asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic patients.
- ICDs are effective in preventing sudden death in this disease. Therefore, risk stratification has a major role in patient management.
- Patients who have survived a cardiac arrest or have experienced one or more episodes of sustained ventricular tachycardia are considered at high risk and therefore as candidates for a cardioverter defibrillator for secondary prevention of sudden death.
- There is more uncertainty in the selection of patients for primary prophylactic insertion of a cardioverter defibrillator:
- Electrophysiological testing has a low prognostic accuracy in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and does not seem to have a role in risk stratification.
- A single strong risk factor may be an indicator of high risk in selected patients but multiple risk factors are generally considered to indicate a greater likelihood of sudden death:
- Family history of sudden death
- Extreme hypertrophy: extreme thickness of the left ventricular wall (30 mm) is a strong predictor of sudden death in young patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Unexplained syncope
- Nonsustained ventricular tachycardia
- Abnormal blood pressure response to exercise: hypotensive blood pressure response during upright exercise, especially in patients younger than 50 years
- Patients with mild left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) (wall thickness <20 mm) and no risk factor can be considered at low risk and have a mean life expectancy similar to that of the general population.
- Heart failure:
- Drug treatment of heart failure has largely been based on betablockers, which reduce the heart rate and so prolong diastole and improve ventricular filling. Betablockers may also decrease the outflow gradient during effort.
- Verapamil may be used in patients without severe outflow obstruction and is the drug of choice in patients whose main symptom is chest pain.
- For patients with heart failure not effectively controlled with betablockers or verapamil, a low dose of a diuretic is usually effective in alleviating symptoms.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors should be used with caution because outflow obstruction may be increased by reducing afterload.
- About 5% of patients evolve towards the end-stage phase of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and have systolic dysfunction usually associated with thinning of the left ventricular wall (due to extensive fibrosis) and ventricular dilatation. These patients should receive standard treatment of heart failure, including ACE inhibitors, diuretics, betablockers, and digoxin, but many of these patients become candidates for heart transplantation.
- Atrial fibrillation:
- Paroxysmal or chronic atrial fibrillation develops in about 20% of adult patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and is associated with an increased risk of death due to heart failure.
- Amiodarone is considered the most effective drug for prevention of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
- Betablockers and/or verapamil are usually sufficient to control heart rate in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, but ablation of the atrioventricular (AV) node and pacemaker implantation may be required.
- Anticoagulant treatment is indicated in patients with either paroxysmal or chronic atrial fibrillation.
- The risk of infective endocarditis is low but routine antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended.
- ICDs: may prevent sudden death in high-risk patients (see below).
Surgical myotomy or myectomy
- 5% of patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have outflow obstruction and severe symptoms unresponsive to medical therapy and are candidates for surgical myectomy or alcohol septal ablation to relieve the outflow obstruction.
- Injection of alcohol into the proximal interventricular septum may be an alternative to surgery.
Non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Angina and breathlessness may respond to betablockers or calcium antagonists.
- Nitrates may be useful, but excessive reductions in preload must be avoided.
- Diuretics and vasodilators are indicated in patients with systolic impairment.
- Treatment of patients with restrictive disease is more difficult. Betablockers and spironolactone, can be effective.
- The number of possible mutations means that genetic testing is not generally practical.
- Careful pedigree analysis of family members can be useful in identifying those at risk of inheriting the disease.
- It has been recommended that adult relatives be screened by clinical evaluation, ECG and echocardiogram every 5 years.
- The clinical course is variable; many remain asymptomatic throughout life but others develop severe heart failure or atrial fibrillation, or die suddenly, often at a young age and in the absence of previous symptoms.
- There may be long periods without any change in the patient's condition.
- Arrhythmias are common; paroxysmal or chronic atrial fibrillation develops in a minority of adult patients.
- Competitive sports may increase the risk of sudden death.
- Risk of sudden death due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is greatest in those younger than 30 years of age.
Further reading & references
- Elliott P, McKenna WJ; Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Lancet. 2004 Jun 5;363(9424):1881-91.
- Spirito P, Autore C; Management of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. BMJ. 2006 May 27;332(7552):1251-5.
- Ramaraj R; Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: etiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Cardiol Rev. 2008 Jul-Aug;16(4):172-80.
- Familial Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)
- Berul C; Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic, eMedicine, Aug 2009.
- The Role of Endomyocardial Biopsy in the Management of Cardiovascular Disease, European Society of Cardiology (2007)
- Sherrid MV; Pathophysiology and treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2006 Sep-Oct;49(2):123-51.
- Sherrid MV, Daubert JP; Risks and challenges of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators in young adults. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2008 Nov-Dec;51(3):237-63.
- Maron BJ; Can sudden cardiac death be prevented? Cardiovasc Pathol. 2010 Apr 7.
- Brown ML, Schaff HV; Surgical management of obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: the gold standard. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2008 Jun;6(5):715-22.
- Alam M, Dokainish H, Lakkis N; Alcohol septal ablation for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy: a systematic review of published studies. J Interv Cardiol. 2006 Aug;19(4):319-27.
|Original Author: Dr Colin Tidy||Current Version: Dr Hayley Willacy|
|Last Checked: 21/05/2010||Document ID: 2293 Version: 21||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.