Cardiomyopathy Patients’ Relatives

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:26
Posted in category Health News

Recent studies suggest that the most common form of cardiomyopathy is often inherited. Taking the next logical step, a study in the January Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that relatives of people with this form, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), are at risk for DCM themselves and should be screened.

DCM is a disease in which the heart walls weaken and stretch, enlarging the heart and usually leading to congestive heart failure. Because DCM often has no symptoms, researchers recruited 225 outwardly healthy relatives of DCM patients to see if these family members harbored early signs of the disease without knowing it and whether the researchers could detect these signs. Each person received a full physical examination, an exercise test, and heart ultrasound.

The results showed that many had DCM-related heart problems: 29 percent showed abnormalities on the ultrasound, including 20 percent with enlarged left ventricles and 3 percent with outright DCM. And over the next three to four years, more than a quarter of the family members with enlarged left ventricles developed DCM.

If these findings are confirmed in future studies, they would suggest that close relatives of people with DCM should have a complete heart checkup. Until then, if you have a close relative with DCM, you may want to discuss whether you need a cardiac evaluation with your physician. Although we don’t know yet how to prevent DCM and heart failure, drug treatment may help people with early signs of these problems.

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