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Exams and Tests
The diagnosis of cardiomyopathy begins with history. Usually, the patient's symptoms consist of complaining of fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. There also may be chest discomfort. Other information may be gathered from past medical history including history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Noting the presence of other underlying illnesses such as sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, thyroid disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis can be helpful in determining potential causes of cardiomyopathy.
Social history including smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse can also be helpful in making the diagnosis. Family history is often important, especially if there is concern about sudden cardiac death at an early age.
Physical examination often will include monitoring vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. The health care practitioner may obtain significant information from lung examination listening for fluid and from listening to the heart sounds. Murmurs may provide information about leaking heart valves. Examination of the jugular veins in the neck and swelling or fluid in the feet and ankles can be clues to the diagnosis of heart failure.
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a screening test to look for electrical abnormalities in the heart. Evidence of previous heart attack or ventricular hypertrophy (heart muscle thickening) can be noted on the EKG.
An ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) can help evaluate wall motion function of the heart, the integrity of the heart valves, and the ventricle ejection fraction. It may also provide visualization of the sac (pericardium) that surrounds the heart.
Chest X-ray may reveal an enlarged or abnormal heart shape or excess fluid accumulation within the lungs.
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