Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a condition when the heart muscle becomes rigid and less compliant. This increases the difficulty for the blood to fill up the heart. As a result, volume of blood that ejects out from each contraction of a stiff heart is less than normal. Patient would experience breathlessness, especially on exertion.
Symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy mimic those in heart failure. They include difficulty in breathing, especially on exertion, fatigue and loss of appetite. Water retention is common and patients frequently complain of both legs swelling and abdominal bloating. Abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation is frequently seen and this rhythm increases the likelihood of stroke in affected individuals.
There are many causes of restrictive cardiomyopathy. Family history of cardiomyopathy can sometimes be found as this condition can be due to misspelling of one or more genes. Infiltrative conditions like amyloidosis or sarcoidosis can sometimes affect the heart and cause stiff heart to occur.
This condition is usually diagnosed with imaging studies and echocardiogram is widely used to detect this condition. Sometimes cardiac MRI is needed to better characterize the heart muscle. Rarely a cardiac biopsy, where a small piece of heart muscle is taken for analysis under microscope, is performed.
Treatment is usually aimed at reducing the pressure inside the heart and relieving water retention. Medications include water tablet are usually indispensable. Blood thinners like warfarin decreases the risk of stroke when atrial fibrillation is present. In advanced situations when the heart function is very poor, the patient may require a heart transplant.
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