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Treating Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Close to Home

The skinny on the most common inherited heart condition that thickens and stiffens heart muscle

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common genetic heart condition you may have never heard about, a sometimes-elusive chronic disease that can have no symptoms or cause symptoms that mimic other conditions, such as asthma.

With HCM, the walls of your heart thicken over time, potentially impairing the blood flow in and out of your heart. It can put you at risk for dangerously abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and other cardiac conditions. In addition, it’s the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in people younger than 30, and the leading cause of cardiac arrest in young athletes.

Did you know?

HCM is estimated to affect at least 1 in 300 people in the U.S., but a large percentage of those people are undiagnosed.

However, with treatment and monitoring, most people with HCM have a normal lifespan and improved quality of life.

HCM program at Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute

The good news is Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute’s HCM program is well positioned to diagnose and treat the disease, estimated to affect at least 1 in 300 people in the U.S., but a large percentage of those people are undiagnosed.

“There are several Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologists, including myself, who have extensive background and training in the diagnosis and treatment of HCM,” says cardiologist Nael Hawwa, MD. “Whether the solution to your HCM is medication, or even surgery, we are ready to help you.”

Dr. Hawwa, along with Cheri Silverstein Fadlon, MD, and Jamael Hoosain, MD, are certified to prescribe mavacamten, a new medication approved for obstructive HCM by the FDA last April. If surgery is needed to reduce thickened heart muscle, James Wu, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Heart and Vascular Institute, has performed more than 100 such procedures, known as a septal myectomy.

“Whether the solution to your HCM is medication, or even surgery, we are ready to help you.” - Nael Hawwa, MD

“The Heart and Vascular Institute has the expertise to address any issues associated with HCM, including genetic testing and family screening, treating obstructions, atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia and heart failure. Treatment options include medications, septal myectomy, ablation for arrhythmia and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator,” Dr. Hawwa says. “Someone with HCM can receive all related services right here, close to home. Genetic counselors, imaging and interventional cardiologists and electrophysiologists all collaborate to achieve the best results. We’re proud to be able to provide that for our community.”

Symptoms and testing

Cardiologists can diagnose HCM using imaging including echocardiograms or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.

HCM, caused by changes in genes that control the production of heart muscle proteins, can develop at any point in someone’s life.

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired or lacking energy
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Chest pain, especially with physical activity
  • Fainting or feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, or stomach

The CDC says high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and being overweight or having obesity can increase your risk of developing complications of HCM. Making lifestyle changes and taking other steps to manage these conditions are important if you have HCM.

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 and Vascular Institute’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center can diagnose and treat HCM.

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