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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Clinical Heart and Vascular Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s heart specialists expertly diagnose and treat people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition that can lead to irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. 

Combining skill and experience with the newest science-based tools and techniques, our cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons evaluate and treat people who have this serious illness. 

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Skilled Care for a Serious Heart Condition

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition in which the heart’s ventricular walls have become excessively thick, making it difficult for the heart to pump out blood. HCM is usually asymmetrical, meaning that one side of the heart is thicker than the other. 

HCM is the most common genetic heart condition. Also known as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM) and idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (IHSS), it is estimated to affect one in 500 people – at least 600,000 people – in the U.S. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually inherited, but in many cases, there is no obvious family history of the condition. If left untreated, HCM can lead to irregular heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias) and heart failure

A thickened ventricular wall also can be caused by high blood pressure and intense athletics, but these causes aren’t the same as HCM and require different treatment. These similarities underscore the critical importance of getting an accurate diagnosis.

UT Southwestern’s specialized heart doctors are experts at providing that diagnosis and then treating the HCM. Our skilled cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons offer the most advanced treatments and technologies, with a personalized plan of care for each patient’s unique condition.

UT Southwestern has been certified a Center of Excellence by the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA) – one of less than 30 Centers of Excellence nationwide and the first certified center in North Texas. HCMA Centers of Excellence are recognized for providing comprehensive diagnostic, treatment, education, and research programs for HCM.

UT Southwestern is also home to a dedicated Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Cardiac rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery and can prevent future heart disease. 


Experienced, Team-Based HCM Treatment

As a center of excellence providing more hypertrophic cardiomyopathy care than any other medical center in Texas, UT Southwestern is helping more HCM patients than ever live happier, healthier, and longer.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

Many people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy experience no symptoms. In those who do, symptoms can include:

  • Palpitations from abnormal heart rhythms
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Fainting spells (syncope)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden cardiac death

It is important that people see a cardiologist for evaluation if they or a family member has been diagnosed with HCM, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms. 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Diagnosis

UT Southwestern cardiologists might perform several tests to diagnose HCM. Common diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical exam: To listen for heart murmurs typical for HCM and differentiate them from other murmurs associated with different heart conditions
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): To look for evidence of muscle thickening and the presence of abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loop monitoring: To detect any arrhythmias or causes of palpitations that might be occurring
  • Echocardiography (echo or cardiac ultrasound): To evaluate muscle thickness and blood flow out of the heart and to differentiate HCM from other related cardiac conditions
  • Cardiac MRI: To better assess the amount of hypertrophy (enlargement) and the degree of scarring
  • Cardiac catheterization: To assess coronary anatomy and degree of obstruction
  • Genetic screening: To determine if a gene mutation might have caused HCM and potentially use that information to screen at-risk family members 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Treatments

Treatments for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include:

  • Medications such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers to reduce chest pain and other symptoms, especially during exercise
  • Anti-arrhythmic therapy to stabilize abnormal heart rhythms
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and subcutaneous ICDs (S-ICDs) to monitor and regulate abnormal heart rhythms
  • Alcohol septal ablation, a minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure to reduce the thickness of the left ventricle septum
  • Septal myomectomy, a minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure to reduce the thickness of the left ventricle septum
  • Extended myectomy, surgery to reduce the thickness of the left ventricle septum
  • Heart transplant, for patients with HCM that led to end-stage heart failure 

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s cardiac rehabilitation specialists create customized plans that integrate proper nutrition, exercise, and, if necessary, nicotine cessation into patients’ lifestyles to improve their cardiovascular health. 

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease.

Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials might receive treatments years before they are available to the public. 

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Heart Month 2018: Sharon Leissner

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