Diagnosis of HCM

An extremely common condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affects at least one in 500 Americans. This condition can be diagnosed at any time from infancy to adulthood.

Cardiomyopathy usually can be diagnosed by characteristic physical findings, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and, if doubt still exists, cardiac catheterization and radionuclide angiography. A biopsy of the heart wall tissue may help distinguish between the different types of cardiomyopathy.

Between 30 and 60 percent of HCM patients are diagnosed after an abnormal EKG or echocardiogram. However, HCM often manifests differently in children than adults.

Read more about pediatric HCM here.

The most common time to screen for HCM is during puberty or adolescence. The reason: This condition often manifests during a rapid growth spurt or once the affected individual engages in competitive sports.

HCM accounts for roughly one-third of sudden cardiac deaths among young athletes. Distinguishing between an athletic heart, an HCM heart, and a heart with hypertensive heart disease can be difficult. Therefore patients must be carefully monitored and assessed.

Genetic testing can identify family members who have inherited the gene and thus are at risk for developing HCM. Sometimes the gene can also tell us if a patient is likely to develop electrical abnormalities or arrhythmias and can also indicate if a person is at risk for sudden cardiac death. While this risk of sudden cardiac death is roughly five percent at adolescence, this tapers off with age. Only one percent of all patients with HCM are at risk for sudden cardiac death.

The HCM Center offers advanced medical imaging to refine the patient's diagnosis, including the following services:

  • Advanced cardiac imaging, including 3D-echocardiography and MRI
  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiopulmonary exercise laboratory
  • Cardiac catheterization laboratory arrhythmia management and electrophysiology services
  • Cardiac surgery
  • Interventional cardiology program
  • Heart failure program
  • Heart transplant program
  • Pulmonary hypertension center
  • Adult congenital heart program
  • Preventive Cardiology Program