Restrictive cardiomyopathy refers to a set of changes in how the heart muscle functions. These changes cause the heart to fill poorly (more common) or squeeze poorly (less common). Sometimes, both problems are present.
Cardiomyopathy - restrictive; Infiltrative cardiomyopathy; Idiopathic myocardial fibrosis
In a case of restrictive cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle is of normal size or slightly enlarged. Most of the time, it also pumps normally. However, it does not relax normally during the time between heartbeats when the blood returns from the body (diastole).
Although the main problem is abnormal filling of the heart, the heart may not pump blood strongly when the disease progresses. The abnormal heart function can affect the lungs, liver, and other body systems. Restrictive cardiomyopathy may affect either or both of the lower heart chambers (ventricles). Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a rare condition. The most common causes are amyloidosis and scarring of the heart from an unknown cause. It also can occur after a heart transplant.
Other causes of restrictive cardiomyopathy include:
Symptoms of heart failure are most common. These symptoms often develop slowly over time. However, symptoms sometimes start very suddenly and are severe.
Common symptoms are:
- Breathing problems that occur at night, with activity or when lying flat
Fatigue and inability to exercise
- Loss of appetite
Swelling of the abdomen
Swelling of the feet and ankles
- Uneven or rapid pulse
Other symptoms may include:
- Chest pain
- Inability to concentrate
- Low urine output
- Need to urinate at night (in adults)
Exams and Tests
A physical exam may show:
- Enlarged (distended) or bulging neck veins
- Enlarged liver
- Lung crackles and abnormal or distant heart sounds in the chest heard through a stethoscope
- Fluid backup into the hands and feet
- Signs of heart failure
Tests for restrictive cardiomyopathy include:
Restrictive cardiomyopathy may appear similar to constrictive pericarditis. Cardiac catheterization may help confirm the diagnosis. Rarely, a biopsy of the heart may be required.
The condition causing the cardiomyopathy is treated when it can be found.
Few treatments are known to work well for restrictive cardiomyopathy. The main goal of treatment is to control symptoms and improve quality of life.
The following treatments may be used to control symptoms or prevent problems:
- Blood thinning medicines
- Chemotherapy (in some situations)
- Diuretics to remove fluid and help improve breathing
- Medicines to prevent or control abnormal heart rhythms
- Steroids or chemotherapy for some causes
A heart transplant may be considered if the heart function is very poor and symptoms are severe.
People with this condition often develop heart failure that gets worse. Problems with heart rhythm or "leaky" heart valves may also occur.
People with restrictive cardiomyopathy may be heart transplant candidates. The outlook depends on the cause of the condition, but it is usually poor. Survival after diagnosis may exceed 10 years.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy.
Falk RH and Hershberger RE. The dilated, restrictive, and infiltrative cardiomyopathies. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 77.
McKenna W, Elliott P. Diseases of the myocardium and endocardium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 60.
- Last reviewed on 5/16/2018
- Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is the first of its kind, requiring compliance with 53 standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audit. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial process. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics (www.hiethics.com) and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.