Duke cardiologists and heart surgeons are experts in the diagnosis and management of cardiomyopathy, a group of diseases that affect the heart muscle. Our heart specialists ensure you receive the right treatment for your type of cardiomyopathy and the heart conditions that can occur as a result.
What Is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy, or diseases of the heart muscle, can occur without a known cause, be present without signs or symptoms, and cause serious heart problems, including life-threatening arrhythmias, mitral valve disease, and heart failure. Identifying the disease early and working with cardiologists who are experts in its diagnosis and management will prevent cardiomyopathy from progressing and causing serious complications.
Choosing the right treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have. Duke cardiologists are experts in treating all types of cardiomyopathy.
The most common type of cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle wall thickens, making the heart work harder and sometimes obstructing the flow of blood leaving the heart. It often goes undiagnosed because many people have no or only mild symptoms. It is notorious for causing sudden death in young athletes but can affect people of all ages and activity levels. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may run in families.
The heart size is larger, but muscle walls are thinner and weaker than normal. This affects your heart’s ability to pump normally.
This rare condition occurs when the lower chambers of the heart become rigid and stiff, which restricts filling of the heart during muscle relaxation. This also affects your heart’s ability to pump normally.
Duke Health heart clinics are located throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
May be prescribed to manage arrhythmias, lower your blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart.
Alcohol Septal Ablation
When the thickening of your heart’s septum occurs in a small, defined area, our interventional cardiologists may use a catheter procedure to inject alcohol into the area. This leads to thinning of the muscle and fewer symptoms over a few months. This procedure is less invasive than septal myectomy surgery and may be a good option for older people who have other medical problems.
Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)
If you are diagnosed with a life-threatening arrhythmia or have other risk factors, a battery-powered ICD may be implanted under your skin. Thin wires placed within or near your heart muscle will continuously monitor your heart rhythm and may shock the heart back into rhythm if a life-threatening heart rhythm develops. This device offers a high level of protection against unpredictable heart rhythm abnormalities.
Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)
If cardiomyopathy has severely weakened your heart, leading to heart failure, you may be a candidate for a VAD. This mechanical heart pump can support your heart and optimize your blood flow while you’re waiting for a heart transplant. It can also be a long-term solution if you have heart failure and are not a candidate for a heart transplant. Today’s smaller, portable, more-reliable heart pumps make VADs an option for more people.
Open heart surgery may be recommended if the muscular wall that separates the right and left sides of the heart -- called the septum -- thickens and bulges. This can restrict the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively out of the left ventricle to the body. During this procedure, a portion of the thickened septum is removed to relieve an obstruction. This procedure is used when medication alone isn’t effective in reducing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, that limit activity.
Heart disease that has progressed to heart failure may require a heart transplant. Our transplant program is one of the nation’s largest and has been named one of the highest-performing heart transplant centers in the country by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A Team of Experts Treats Your Cardiomyopathy
Our cardiologists are experts in managing cardiomyopathy and work with other Duke cardiologists who are specialists in the related heart problems that can arise. Our experienced heart surgeons and interventional cardiologists perform procedures to remove obstructions that may result when the thickening of the heart muscle causes blood to rush forcefully through your heart valves. This can lead to mitral valve disease.
Genetic Heart Disease Testing
Duke is one of the only centers in the Southeast with experts who can administer and interpret complex tests that identify or confirm diagnoses of rare types of genetic cardiomyopathies, including hypertrophic, arrhythmogenic right ventricular, left ventricular non-compaction, dilated, and restrictive cardiomyopathies. Comprehensive genetic testing and counseling can help determine whether your cardiomyopathy is genetic, pinpoint the best treatment approaches for you, and identify family members who may be at risk.
Advanced Imaging Techniques
We use heart imaging techniques such as cardiac MRI to diagnose cardiomyopathy and confirm its type. Our heart imaging experts' use of and skill with advanced imaging also helps us define the location and extent of related heart problems.
Clinical Trials Access
As a Duke patient, you may be eligible to participate in clinical trials that offer access to new therapies, procedures, or devices that aren’t widely available.
Options for Arrhythmias
If an arrhythmia is suspected, our electrophysiologists can recommend a range of treatment options, from medications to implanted defibrillators to surgery.
Specialized Care for Expectant Moms
Our perinatologists help women with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy manage heart issues during pregnancy.
When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cardiology and heart surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2020–2021.