Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited disease of the heart muscle. HCM can cause the wall of the heart muscle to thicken. When the walls get too thick, the heart muscle functions inefficiently, causing some patients to have obstruction to blood flow from the heart. HCM is also associated with abnormal heart rhythms, which can sometimes be life threatening.

People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) can have the following symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations or the sensation of feeling the heart beat
  • Dizziness

A minority of people with HCM will suffer from the most serious complications, which include sudden death, heart failure and stroke. It is important to note that HCM has a wide range of severity. Some people may not experience symptoms and may have normal heart evaluations well into adulthood. Others may have serious complications at a young age, including heart failure or sudden cardiac death. It is difficult to predict whether an individual will have a mild form of HCM or a more severe form. HCM can be a major cause of death in young athletes who appear healthy but die during intense exercise.

Diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) requires a thorough cardiology and genetics evaluation. A complete medical history including a family medical history will be taken. Then a physical examination will be done. This includes listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for any abnormal heart sounds or murmurs. The pulse in both your arms and neck will be checked and the doctor may feel for an abnormal heart beat in the chest.

Additional tests to diagnose cardiomyopathy typically include echocardiography and electrocardiogram (ECG). Further testing may also be needed, including genetic testing, cardiac MRI, exercise stress testing, monitoring for abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac catheterization. In addition to making a precise diagnosis, these tests are invaluable in determining severity and guiding disease management.

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Treating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) depends on the presence and severity of a patient's symptoms, how a patient's heart is functioning, if a patient is suffering from abnormal heart rhythms and a patient's age and activity level. Treatment ranges from medications to surgery or ablation. Treatment of abnormal heart rhythms may include surgically implanting a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator into the patient. In rare cases of severe heart failure, a heart transplant may be needed.

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