Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects the cells that make up the heart muscle, said Andrew Wang, MD, a Duke cardiologist who specializes in condition. It causes areas of the heart muscle wall to thicken, which makes the muscle work harder and can obstruct the flow of blood exiting the heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often goes undiagnosed because many people have no symptoms. It's notorious for causing sudden death in young athletes but can affect people of all ages.
When Goodes, a 55-year-old pediatric physical therapist, first saw Dr. Wang, he recommended she wear a portable monitor to record her heart beats. It documented several episodes of arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, caused by her thickened heart during a 48-hour period. Because that’s a possible warning sign for sudden cardiac death, he advised that an implantable defibrillator (ICD) be placed under her skin. The battery-powered device connects thin wires to her heart muscle to pace or shock the heart back into rhythm if it beats too fast or too slow.
“The ICD treats the risk of sudden death,” Dr. Wang explained.
Although Goodes knew the procedure was similar to getting a pacemaker, “I was very nervous about the ICD placement,” she said. “The nurses and anesthetists understood how I felt, and it meant a lot that everyone was caring and understanding. They had a lot of positive energy and reassured me that they’d take good care of me.”
In the months following the 2016 procedure, Goodes complained of shortness of breath when walking, another symptom of her thicker heart muscle. Dr. Wang helped her find the right combination of medications to improve her symptoms and quality of life. Now, Dr. Wang coordinates Goodes’ care with her local cardiologist near her home in Reidsville, NC.