Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM) is a rare form of heart muscle disease that is characterized by restrictive filling of the ventricles. In this disease the contractile function (squeeze) of the heart and wall thicknesses are usually normal, but the relaxation or filling phase of the heart is very abnormal. This occurs because the heart muscle is stiff and poorly compliant and does not allow the ventricular chambers to fill with blood normally. This inability to relax and fill with blood results in a “backup” of blood into the atria (top chambers of the heart), lungs and body causing the symptoms and signs of heart failure.Symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy may include:
Shortness of breath
Inability to exercise
Swelling of the legs and feet
Nausea, bloating, and poor appetite
Less common symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy:
Fainting (usually caused by irregular heart rhythms or abnormal responses of the blood vessels during exercise)
Chest pain or pressure (occurs usually with exercise or physical activity, but can also occur with rest or after meals)
HOW IS RESTRICTIVE CARDIOMYOPATHY DIAGNOSED?
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is diagnosed based on medical history, physical exam, and tests like blood tests, electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, echocardiogram, exercise stress test, cardiac catheterization, CT scan, and MRI.A myocardial biopsy, or biopsy of the heart muscle, occasionally is done to determine the cause of cardiomyopathy.
HOW IS RESTRICTIVE CARDIOMYOPATHY TREATED?
Treatment of restrictive cardiomyopathy is difficult. Treatment is usually focused on treating the cause of this condition. Doctors recommend lifestyle changes and medications to treat heart failure. The following treatments may be used to control symptoms or prevent problems:
• Blood thinning medicines
• Chemotherapy (in some situations)
• Diuretics to remove fluid and help improve breathing
• Medicines to prevent or control abnormal heart rhythms
• Steroids for some causes
DID YOU KNOW?
Many patients with this disorder would exhibit no or minor signs and symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy.