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Cardiomyopathy (cont.)

When to seek medical care for cardiomyopathy

It is not normal to have chest pain or shortness of breath and persons experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care.

Swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs; increasing shortness of breath on exertion; difficulty lying flat and wakening in the middle of the night due to shortness of breath all may be symptoms of congestive heart failure. These symptoms should prompt a consultation with a health care practitioner.

It is also not normal to ever be partially or completely unconscious. A person who faints or passes out due to a heart rhythm disturbance may be in a life-threatening situation. It may be necessary for bystanders to activate the emergency medical services, usually by phone calling 911.

What is the treatment for cardiomyopathy?

While the treatment of a cardiomyopathy depends upon the specific cause, the goal for therapy is to maximize cardiac output, maintain ejection fraction, and prevent further heart muscle damage and loss of function.

If the cardiomyopathy is associated with electrical disturbances, heart pacemakers may be implanted to provide stable, coordinated electrical impulses to the heart muscle.

If there is a potential for sudden cardiac death, an implanted defibrillator may be considered. The device can recognize ventricular fibrillation, a rhythm that does not allow the heart to contract, and deliver an electrical shock to return the heart to a coordinated stable rhythm. If indicated, there are some implanted devices that are both pacemakers and defibrillators.

Severe cardiomyopathies may not be able to be controlled or treated with mediation, diet, or other surgical interventions. In this situation, heart transplantation may be a consideration as a final option.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/16/2016

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