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Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Alternative names

Cardiomyopathy - restrictive; Infiltrative cardiomyopathy


"Restrictive cardiomyopathy" referes to a group of disorders in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood because of stiffness of the heart. In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the heart is normal in size

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The most common causes of restrictive cardiomyopathy are amyloidosis and idiopathic myo cardial


  • Excessive tiredness ( fatigue )
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
    • especially with exertion
    • at night
    • when lying flat
  • Easy fatigue (poor tolerance of exercise)
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Signs and tests

An examination may show signs of heart failure with fluid backup into the lungs or the systemic circulation (the extremities, gastrointestinal tract, and liver). The neck veins may be distended. Listening to the chest with a stethoscope ( auscultation ) may show lung crackles and may show abnormal or distant heart sounds .

Tests that may indicate restrictive cardiomyopathy (by showing symmetrical thickening of the ventricle walls and signs of abnormal heart function such as decreased cardiac output, and/or elevated end diastolic pressure) include:
  • ECG ( electrocardiogram )
  • Echocardiogram and Doppler study
  • Coronary angiography
  • Chest X-ray
  • Chest CT scan
  • Chest MRI scan

Restrictive cardiomyopathy may be hard to differentiate from constrictive pericarditis . A biopsy of the heart muscle may be used to confirm the diagnosis. A cardiac catheterization procedure can sometimes help to differentiate the two cardiomyopathies by performing simultaneous left and right heart catheterization. In some cases, surgical exploration and biopsies are the only means to definitely distinguish restrictive cardiomyopathy from constrictive pericarditis.


Little therapy is known to be effective for the treatment of restrictive cardiomyopathy. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and to improve the quality of life.

Various medications may be used to control symptoms. Diuretics may help somewhat in removing fluid, which can improve breathing. Depending on the underlying heart disease, some patients with restrictive cardiomyopathy may benefit from steroids or chemotherapy. A heart transplant may be considered if the function of the heart is very poor.

Expectations (prognosis)

People with restrictive cardiomyopathy may be candidates for heart transplant . Prognosis is dependent on the underlying etiology but it is usually poor. Average (mean) survival after diagnosis is 9 years.


Progressive heart failure , mitral regurgitation, tricuspid regurgitation.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy are present.

Update Date: 5/9/2002

Elena Sgarbossa, M.D., Department of Cardiology, Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Ctr., Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT