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What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that leads to a weaker heart that is less able to pump blood through the body.

The result can be heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) and heart valve conditions.

More patients with cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions entrust their care to Norton Heart & Vascular Institute than any other provider in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained cardiologists and other specialists in the Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program are at the leading edge of advanced treatments for cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy in children can be inherited, the result of a viral infection or from an unknown cause. The specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, provide sophisticated care for children with cardiomyopathy from across Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common type of cardiomyopathy, affects the pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles). The heart muscle stretches and thins — dilates — and the inside of the heart chamber enlarges and becomes less efficient pumping blood.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is typically an inherited tendency for the left ventricle to contract and become thicker. As the heart muscle thickens, less blood is taken in and pumped out to the body. The condition often appears in childhood or early adulthood and can cause sudden death in adolescents and young athletes.
  • Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is a result of scar tissue replacing healthy heart tissue and causing arrhythmia.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy is also known as idiopathic cardiomyopathy or infiltrative cardiomyopathy. Typically in older adults, scar tissue can replace healthy muscle and make the heart ventricles stiff, restricting their ability to fill with blood.

Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

Sometimes cardiomyopathy causes no symptoms, or symptoms emerge as the disease progresses. Symptoms can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Fainting, or syncope
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the ankles and legs

Cardiomyopathy Treatment

At the Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program we use advanced treatments to try to slow the progress of cardiomyopathy and control the symptoms.

We start by working with you on dietary changes and other lifestyle adjustments such as physical activity, stress reduction, and reduction of alcohol and other drugs. We often have success with lifestyle changes in conjunction with medication.

Implanted devices such as pacemakers or a cardioverter-defibrillator (either implanted or wearable) can control abnormal heart rhythms such as arrhythmia. Your Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program provider may use a sophisticated device to remotely monitor your blood flow daily for subtle changes that can signal a worsening condition.

Our cardiologists may use minimally invasive procedures such as ablations that carefully destroy small parts of diseased heart to restore blood flow or interrupt abnormal heart rhythms.

In some cases, surgery to remove the thickened part of muscle between the two ventricles is required to improve blood flow through the heart.

Our surgeons have experience and sophisticated training with ventricular assist devices if necessary as either a long-term solution or a short-term bridge to a heart transplant.

Heart and Vascular Care for the Whole Person

Norton Heart & Vascular Institute offers patient resources to support you and your family, including free classes for people of all ages who are seeking to improve cardiovascular health or living with a heart condition.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Our cardiac rehabilitation providers are leaders in developing and applying innovative techniques that can help you recover and resume your life.

Connecting Hearts Support Group

The group provides education and support to individuals who have had a heart attack, are living with a heart condition or are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Heart Health Screenings

Prevention is the best way to manage heart disease, and screenings are available to detect early signs of cardiac and vascular disease and identify risk factors.

About Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

Every year, more than 137,000 people in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute specialists for their heart and vascular care. That’s more than any other health care provider.

  • Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville all have received Chest Pain Center accreditation from the American College of Cardiology (ACC). This is the seventh consecutive accreditation for all four hospitals, which ensures quality for the treatment of heart attack.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Hospital all are recognized as having ACC Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI accreditation.
  • Norton Healthcare has the most facilities across the city of Louisville with the ability treat a life-threatening heart attack.
  • You have access to more than 100 physicians and advanced practice providers with specialized training and experience in a comprehensive range of conditions and treatments.
  • Patients can make appointments at 28 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 sites in the region.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, a key location for Norton Heart & Vascular Institute services, has been recognized with a HeartCare Center National Distinction of Excellence year after year by the American College of Cardiology. This is the only hospital in Louisville to be recognized for this distinction.
  • U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Hospitals ranked Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville as high performing in heart attack, heart failure, aortic valve surgery and heart bypass surgery.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital earned ventricular assist device (VAD) accreditation from DNV – Healthcare and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • Communicate with your health care provider, renew prescriptions, get lab results and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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