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Infiltrative Cardiomyopathies

Rush specialists work together to diagnose and treat infiltrative cardiomyopathies earlier, all to provide patients a greater chance for a longer, improved quality of life. Recognizing these cardiac diseases in their early stages is essential to successful outcomes.

Infiltrative cardiomyopathies are acquired and inherited diseases characterized by the deposition of abnormal biological substances within the heart that can lead to cardiac dysfunction, arrhythmias or heart failure. Cardiomyopathies can cause the heart muscle to become larger or more rigid, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood properly and maintain a normal rhythm.

These diseases can result in symptoms of heart failure (breathlessness, lower extremity swelling, exercise intolerance, fatigue), as well as symptoms related to electrical disturbances (lightheadedness, palpitations, syncope), such as ventricular/atrial arrhythmias.

The Rush difference in innovative care

Rush providers work alongside colleagues in advanced heart failure, as well as specialists in cardiac electrophysiology, rheumatology, radiology, hematology/oncology, pulmonary medicine, genetic medicine, neurology, pathology and others to bring advanced, state-of-the-art therapies to patients.

Rush also offers the latest clinical trials to patients interested in benefiting from a new drug and testing therapies in the pipeline to advance the field further.

The Infiltrative Cardiac Disease Clinic at Rush is led by Director Dinesh Kalra, MD, who has expertise in treating these conditions.

Three of the most common infiltrative diseases of the heart that Rush specializes in treating include:

  • Cardiac amyloidosis: the prototype of infiltrative cardiac disease with increased wall thickness. Symptoms include heart failure (i.e., breathlessness and exercise intolerance), arrhythmias, conduction block, edema, syncope, neuropathy and hypotension.
  • Cardiac sarcoidosis: a disease that often affects focal regions in the ventricular free walls and the papillary muscles. Patients often have shortness of breath, palpitations and fainting and lung, skin, eye and nervous system involvement.
  • Fabry disease: an inherited disorder that results from the buildup of a particular type of fat, called globotriaosylceramide, in the body's cells. This disease often affects the skin, kidneys and heart. Patients experience strokes and heart attacks at a young age and have kidney failure, bowel problems, angiokeratomas and painful sensations in the limbs.

Diagnosis of infiltrative cardiomyopathies require:

  • Consultations with specialists in the affected organ systems. For example, patients with amyloidosis may see a cardiologist, neurologist and geneticist.
  • Cardiac noninvasive tests, such as an EKG, Holter, echocardiogram, cardiac MRI or stress test.
  • Some patients may require tissue biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, and blood or saliva tests for genetic analysis.