Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic disease in which the heart muscle is abnormally thick. This impairs the flow of blood into and out of the heart. Cardiologists at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center can diagnose and treat HCM.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is relatively common, affecting about one in 500 people. Most people with HCM have a normal quality and duration of life. However, a small percentage of them are at risk for sudden cardiac death, as are those who engage in competitive sports.

About hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) puts you at risk for dangerously abnormal heart rhythms. HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in people younger than 30 years old, and the leading cause of cardiac arrest in young athletes.

Treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

If you have HCM, you will get the care you need at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center. Symptoms of HCM often can be controlled with medication to stabilize your heart rate and improve blood flow. These medications do not cure the disease, but reduce symptoms to improve your overall quality of life. If symptoms continue, our HCM experts and cardiothoracic surgeons will provide specialized care. We provide these hypertrophic cardiomyopathy treatments: 

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small, electronic device that continuously monitors the electrical activity of the heart. It can deliver varying levels of electrical impulses based on the severity of your irregular heartbeat. It is about the size of a stopwatch and usually is inserted under the skin in the upper chest. The ICD also can function as a basic pacemaker as needed. Generally, when an irregular heart rhythm is detected, the mildest electrical impulse is delivered first. If the normal heart rhythm is not restored, additional stronger impulses will be delivered. Your doctor will program your ICD to your specific needs.
  • Myectomy: This procedure removes thickened tissue from the septum (wall) between the heart chambers so that pumping and blood flow improves. Septal myectomy is performed as an open-heart surgical procedure.
  • Alcohol septal ablation (ASA) for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): In this procedure, alcohol is injected into the heart muscle through an artery. This “alcohol ablation” technique deadens a portion of the heart muscle to reduce its width and allow blood to be pumped more easily.

Life with HCM

People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), including those who have received an implantable device that controls their heart rhythm, should avoid all competitive sports. However, mild to moderate exercise is permitted to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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