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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Symptoms & Prognosis for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

The vast majority of patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) have no symptoms and lead completely normal lives. However, some patients experience shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness and/or fainting, especially during or shortly after exertion. Patients may also feel palpitations (unusual awareness of the heartbeat) which may be due to an abnormal heart rhythm. Most commonly the diagnosis is made after your doctor hears a murmur (abnormal extra sound made when the heart beats) or notices an abnormality on an electrocardiogram (ECG). Some patients are diagnosed with this condition after one of their family members was diagnosed with HCM. An echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound examination of the heart, is the most accurate way to confirm the diagnosis in most patients. In some patients, further testing with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required to make the diagnosis and to fully evaluate the amount and location of muscle thickening.

Prognosis for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The majority of patients with HCM have no symptoms or only mild symptoms and lead normal, active lives. There may be long periods without a change in the patient's condition. However, some patients experience troublesome and progressive symptoms that require medications and/or other procedures for treatment. A minority of patients with HCM who have no symptoms have an increased risk of sudden death, often at a young age, and often during competitive sports. Whether a patient is at increased risk for sudden death is determined by the cardiologist, based on a number of factors including the patient's family history and the results of tests that evaluate the severity of muscle thickening, the heart's ability to work normally during exercise, and the heart rhythm.


For more information regarding HCM and available treatments, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

In addition, the most credible source of information about HCM is the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA). Please visit the HCMA Web site.

Last UpdateDecember 7, 2011