Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy


What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)?

Cardiomyopathy is a group of heart diseases that cause your heart muscle to thicken.

There are several different types of cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the second most common type of heart muscle disease (after ischemic cardiomyopathy).

Up to 500,000 people in the United States have HCM. According to the American Heart Association, 35% to 40% of children under age 12 who have cardiomyopathy have HCM.

How HCM Affects Your Health

This type of cardiomyopathy usually affects your left ventricle, a lower chamber that is your heart’s main pumping chamber. As the ventricle walls enlarge, they become more rigid and bulge into the space inside the ventricle. The narrowed ventricle prevents your heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of your body and maintaining a normal electrical rhythm.

HCM can also damage your heart’s mitral valve and cause cellular changes in heart tissue.

Although there is no cure for HCM, Aurora Health Care doctors offer a number of very effective medications and corrective procedures that can significantly improve your symptoms.

Who Is at Risk for Developing HCM?

HCM is usually an inherited condition caused by mutations (changes) in heart muscle cells. Because of its genetic link, it’s very important to have your doctor check you and your family for HCM if a doctor diagnoses one of your parents, siblings or children with the condition.

People can also develop HCM as a result of the aging process or health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disease

HCM often is the condition behind sudden cardiac arrest, especially in young athletes. Many people don’t realize they have HCM until they develop an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or go into sudden cardiac arrest, meaning their heart suddenly stops beating.

Learn more about all types of cardiomyopathy and sudden cardiac arrest.

World-Class Care

Aurora’s Specialized Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Care

Because we often diagnose HCM in children and young people (particularly athletes) – and because the condition is often inherited – we often test and work with entire families. Your HCM treatment at Aurora will include:

  • A specialized Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center: One of our Cardiac Specialty Centers, located at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, is dedicated to treating people with HCM. Our interdisciplinary team of heart and vascular experts collaborate on your diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Proactive approach: Our doctors are dedicated to early detection and treatment of HCM. They will order screening and/or genetic tests as quickly as possible, if they see a need.
  • Compassionate care: We will always treat you with great care and respect. Our research and professional development projects are always second to making sure you get exactly the care you want and need.


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Symptoms

Although many people don’t realize they have HCM, the disease may create symptoms. It’s important to see your doctor right away if you have two or more HCM symptoms, which include:

  • Chest pain (often after physical activity or large meals)
  • Dizziness
  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Heart palpitations and fluttering in your chest, especially when you exercise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tachycardia, which is a dangerously fast heartbeat

Heart Conditions Related to HCM

Diagnosis & Treatment

Thorough Evaluation & Treatment for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

To diagnose HCM, your doctor will start by asking about your symptoms and perform a physical exam.

Diagnostic Tests

If you need further heart tests, they may include:

Learn more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.

Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed with HCM, we’ll work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It may include lifestyle changes to improve your health such as quitting smoking, avoiding high-intensity sports and limiting salt, alcohol and caffeine.

Other options include:

  • Medication: Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent bacterial endocarditis, an infection of your heart valve or inner lining. You may also take beta blockers and diuretics to relax your heart muscle so that it fills and pumps better, to decrease arrhythmias and help regulate your heart rate.
  • Surgery: When medication isn’t enough, your doctor may recommend surgical treatments, such as:
    • Alcohol septal ablation: This minimally invasive procedure treats thickened areas of heart muscle tissue to shrink them to a normal size.
    • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): This electrical device is permanently implanted in your chest to help control your irregular heartbeat. It can also send a pulse of energy to restart your heart. Learn more about ICDs.
    • Septal myectomy: A surgeon removes part of the thickened heart muscle wall to improve blood flow.

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