Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic condition that causes your heart walls to thicken. The thickened walls may block or reverse blood flow, making your heart work harder and harder to pump blood. HCM may also cause an irregular heartbeat (called an arrhythmia).

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can cause serious heart symptoms or sudden cardiac death, a life-threatening condition that requires emergency care. Young athletes have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death because they perform vigorous physical activity.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

Often, people with HCM don’t have any symptoms until sudden cardiac death occurs. If you have HCM, symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Fast Heartbeat
  • Sudden Cardiac Death

Although hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is common (about 1 in 500 people have it), it affects each person differently. Some people have no symptoms their entire lives while others face serious risks of stroke or sudden cardiac death.

If you have symptoms or a family history of HCM, you may need an echocardiograph (ECG). Echocardiographs use ultrasound technology to look at the heart as it beats. Talk to your doctor about whether an echocardiograph is the right choice for you and your family.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Treatments

Treatment plans for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may include:

  • Medicines 
  • Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (ICDs) 
  • Pacemakers 
  • Catheter-based therapy (Alcohol Septal Ablation) 
  • Cardiac Surgery 
Genetic Testing

Since HCM is an inherited disease, we offer genetic testing and counseling for you and your family. This testing helps us find genes that put your family at risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This lets you or your family get the care you need before serious symptoms develop.

Did You Know? 

Emory Healthcare has a dedicated Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Program.