Symptoms and Treatments

About Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic cardiac condition that results in abnormal thickening, or hypertrophy, of heart muscle and affects approximately 1 in 500 individuals. HCM is a significant cause of disabling cardiac symptoms and sudden, unexpected cardiac death in any age group. Young athletes are at a particular risk of sudden, unexpected cardiac death as a result of HCM, and unfortunately, younger patients are at a greater risk of developing a more severe form of the disease. HCM is frequently asymptomatic until sudden cardiac death occurs.

Although HCM is common, it affects each person differently and treatments can vary from patient to patient. Routine screening of certain populations is recommended.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic Video:


Many patients are asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic, but in patients that do experience symptoms, they mimic those of congestive heart failure, though treatment is different.

• Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
• Chest pain
• Uncomfortable heart beat
• Lightheadedness
• Fatigue
• Fainting (syncope)
• Sudden cardiac death

Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Death at a Young Age

• Severe thickness of heart wall (>30mm)
• An episode of aborted sudden cardiac death
• A family history of HCM with sudden cardiac death
• Ventricular tachycardia (fast heart rhythms)
• Recurrent fainting (syncope), especially in children


HCM is often asymptomatic until sudden cardiac death occurs. It is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. Medical history and examination alone are not effective in diagnosing HCM. However, echocardiography can detect HCM with greater than 80% accuracy.

Treatment Options

Emory physicians cater treatment options to each patient’s individual condition. After an initial evaluation, the Emory Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Clinic team decides on the appropriate treatment plan for the specific patient and works together to initiate the plan.

Treatment options available at Emory include:

• Medication-based therapy
Implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs)
• Catheter-based therapy (alcohol septal ablation)
• Cardiac surgery (myectomy)

Because HCM is a genetic disease, it often affects multiple family members. For this reason, we offer genetic testing and counseling by our certified genetic counselors as well as cardiologists who specialize in HCM in children and adolescents.

The Emory Heart & Vascular Center and the Sibley Heart Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have a long history of excellence in cardiac care and innovation.

To schedule an appointment, call 404-778-2165.