Inherited Heart Disease


What Is Inherited Heart Disease?

Unlike conditions tied to aging or lifestyle, inherited heart diseases (sometimes called familial heart diseases) are genetic. That means changes in one or more genes passed from generation to generation cause these diseases.

To diagnose an inherited heart disease, we perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you are experiencing. Depending on your symptoms and family history, the diagnostic process may include genetic testing and other tests.

If one person in a family has an inherited heart disease, we treat the condition and offer genetic testing and advanced diagnosis to other relatives. This helps us identify the inherited condition earlier in other family members and potentially helps prevent serious complications from developing.

World-Class Care

World-Class Care for Inherited Heart Disease

Aurora Health Care is considered the No. 1 place to receive heart and vascular care in Wisconsin. We are leaders in the region, and in many cases, the nation.

If you are diagnosed with inherited heart disease, we’ll help you understand your risks and what you can do about them. You will also receive excellent care from our knowledgeable doctors who are highly experienced in identifying and treating all types of inherited heart disease.

When you choose us, you will benefit from:

  • Outstanding quality: We’ve been recognized on the American Heart Association’s Target: Heart Failure Honor Roll for outstanding quality of heart failure care. Read more about our accomplishments.
  • Integrated, team approach: Our cardiac health care providers work closely together. This collaboration means you receive consistent care over time, no matter which Aurora Health Care location provides your care. Meet our cardiovascular and thoracic team.
  • Innovators in heart and vascular procedures: Aurora Health Care has helped develop some of the most significant innovations in heart surgery. We created new, minimally invasive techniques for hybrid ablation and transcatheter heart valve replacement. We’re also leaders in VAD and heart pump implantation, as well as heart transplant.
  • The latest facilities, technology and equipment: We have partnered with leading medical companies to build completely modernized hybrid surgical rooms. Here, surgeons and electrophysiologists work together to provide the best care, minimizing recovery time and improving results.
  • Clinical trials and research opportunities: Aurora is a leading center for clinical trials and research. Find out more about our clinical trials and cardiovascular research.
  • Locations throughout the region: We have 15 hospitals and 155 locations throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Our world-class care is available to you close to home.
  • Specialized clinics: At our Channelopathy Clinic, we can specially program an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) so that it will work best for people with specific conditions, such as Long QT syndrome or Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.


Types of Inherited Heart Disease

The most common inherited heart diseases include:

  • Bicuspid aortic valve disease: The aortic valve helps blood move from the heart to the arteries. Bicuspid aortic valve disease occurs when one of the aortic valves has two flaps or “leaflets” instead of three. Read more about aortic valve disease.
  • Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart muscle fibers enlarge and the heart walls thicken. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common type, is usually inherited. It affects people of all ages and can cause cardiac arrest in young people, especially young athletes. A rarer type of cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), also may be inherited. Learn more about cardiomyopathy.
  • Marfan syndrome: Marfan syndrome is an inherited condition that damages the connective tissues. Because it affects the heart and blood vessels, it makes people more prone to aneurysms, or weak spots in the blood vessels that bulge or burst. Find out more about Marfan syndrome.
  • Arrhythmias: Arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly. Several arrhythmias may be inherited, including:
  • Cardiac amyloidosis: With this condition, the heart builds up protein deposits that make it harder for the heart to pump.
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome: This connective tissue disorder, which is similar to Marfan syndrome, can cause an aneurysm in the aorta. Read more about aortic aneurysm.


Symptoms of Inherited Heart Disease

Symptoms of familial heart disease vary, depending on the particular condition. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue or inability to exercise
  • Heart palpitations (a fluttering feeling or irregular heartbeat)
  • Shortness of breath


Genetic Testing for Inherited Heart Conditions

We will likely recommend genetic testing for people who have indications of a familial heart disease, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or Marfan syndrome. If we’re able to isolate a gene mutation, then we’ll recommend that your immediate family members also get tested.

Testing family members helps us to identify who might be at risk for developing certain heart conditions. We also may recommend yearly screenings to check the progress of your health. That way we can help prevent potential problems from progressing.

Our genetic counselors will work with you every step of the way and ensure you understand your test results.

Other Diagnostic Tests

Several other tests can help us check your heart function and rule out other conditions. These tests may include:

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


Treatments for Inherited Heart Disease

If you’re diagnosed with an inherited heart disease, you may be worried about how it will affect you and your loved ones. We’ll help you understand the risks and the available treatments, so that you can get back to living life on your terms.

We may recommend one or more ways to manage an inherited heart disease. Treatments will depend on your symptoms, but may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Weight loss or mild exercise can help prevent or minimize the effects of heart disease.
  • Healthy living: Avoiding smoking, alcohol, caffeine and high-fat foods can improve your health.
  • Medication: Certain medications can help regulate the way your heart works or minimize the chance of blood clots forming.
  • Surgery: Surgery can repair or replace damaged valves, vessels and other parts of your heart. Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive procedures to help you regain your health and get you back on your feet as quickly as possible. Learn more about cardiovascular surgery.
  • Implantable devices: For some conditions, we may suggest an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This device automatically corrects arrhythmia. Read more about ICDs.

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