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Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Clinical Heart and Vascular Center

The heart experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center diagnose and treat people with restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), a life-limiting heart condition. 

Our specialized team uses the most advanced, evidence-based technologies and techniques to evaluate and treat people who have this serious illness. 

Skilled Care for a Life-Limiting Heart Condition

Restrictive cardiomyopathy – the rarest form of cardiomyopathy – is a disorder in which the heart’s muscular layer becomes stiff. This condition hinders the heart’s ability to contract and impedes blood flow. 

The symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy can mimic those of constrictive pericarditis in some cases. 

UT Southwestern’s experienced heart doctors skillfully diagnose and treat restrictive cardiomyopathy. Our specialized team delivers the most advanced treatments and technologies available for this life-limiting heart condition. 

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. 

Causes of Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Causes of restrictive cardiomyopathy include:

  • Hemochromatosis: A disorder in which the blood contains excess iron
  • Idiopathic eosinophilia: A white blood cell disorder
  • Sarcoidosis: An inflammatory disease marked by lesions in organs
  • Carcinoid syndrome: A rare condition caused by hormone secretions of carcinoid tumors
  • Endocardial fibroelastosis: A rare heart disorder in children

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

The symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy are similar to those of heart failure, and they usually develop gradually. These symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue
  • More comfort when sitting than when lying down
  • Bulging or enlarged neck veins
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swelling of legs caused by fluid retention
  • Weakness 

Diagnosing Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

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

  • Cardiac catheterization: To assess coronary vessel anatomy and distinguish restrictive cardiomyopathy from constrictive pericarditis; can include an endomyocardial biopsy at the same time to establish a diagnosis
  • Chest X-ray: To look for congestion in the cardiac blood vessels
  • Echocardiography: To look at the heart chambers and see if the ventricle walls are thickened or the size of the atria has increased
  • Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG): To detect low voltage in heart rhythms
  • Physical exam: To check heart rate, strength of pulse, and other vital signs, as well as to listen with a stethoscope for a loud diastolic murmur with mitral/tricuspid insufficiency 

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy Treatments

Our heart specialists work to identify the cause of restrictive cardiomyopathy and treat it. If the cause can’t be found, we treat the symptoms with medications such as blood thinners, diuretics, and vasodilators.

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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