Because there are various types of cardiomyopathy, various diagnostic methods may be used. Initially, a healthcare professional will perform a physical exam and blood tests. The healthcare team will ask about any symptoms and family history. The healthcare team may recommend specific heart tests such as:
- A chest x-ray, which produces an image of the inside of the chest showing the bones, heart and blood vessels. This will show if the heart appears to be enlarged.
- An electrocardiogram (also called an ECG or EKG), which measures the heart’s electrical activity and records any disturbances in heart rhythm. The heart’s electrical activity determines if it keeps a normal rhythm. It may also show if there has been previous damage to the heart. An ECG may be performed at rest or during exercise.
- An echocardiogram uses ultrasound waves to make a picture of structures moving inside the heart.
- A stress test involves asking a patient to exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike, or take medications that will make the heart respond as if the patient is exercising. During exercise, heart function is monitored by an electrocardiogram that measures the electrical impulses in the heart.
- A cardiac catheterization or angiogram is a minimally invasive test that allows your doctor to see a movie of the heart and the blood vessels around it.
- An event monitor, or recorder, is a wearable device that records the electrical activity of your heart periodically for up to a month.
- In a myocardial biopsy, the doctor removes a tiny piece of the heart muscle and examines it under a microscope to detect any changes to the structure of the muscle itself.
You can learn more about many types of tests used to diagnose cardiovascular disease - and how they help doctors better understand how a heart condition is progressing - in the SecondsCount Cardiovascular Tests Center, found here.
Genetic Testing for Cardiomyopathies
Many people with cardiomyopathy ask about genetic testing. This is because cardiomyopathies tend to run in families and some genetic tests can suggest whether an individual is predisposed to develop the condition. It is important to note that genetic tests do not predict that you will develop a condition, only that you have markers that suggest you might.
Genetic tests are not used to diagnose cardiomyopathy or any other condition. Some people with cardiomyopathies undergo genetic tests to help them understand what health risks any children they have may face. Learn more about genetic testing here.
Learn More About Cardiomyopathies
For more information about cardiomyopathies, including treatment options, visit the SecondsCount Cardiomyopathies Center.