An abrupt, fatal heart attack in a young athlete on the playing field is a tragedy destined to repeat itself over and over until more is understood about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic disorder that is the most common cause of sudden death in young people but which affects people of all ages.
These are the conclusions drawn by a task force of US cardiologists and cardiac biologists published in the online journal Circulation.
Their special report is the culmination of an 18 month effort to highlight what relatively little is known about HCM, identify that which still remains a mystery and list what future research priorities should be with a view to developing novel treatments.
HCM is believed to affect up to 1 in 500 people, yet without a detailed family and genetic history, many people may not know they are at risk of sudden death, says Dr. Force, who had led a number of symposia and study groups to focus on causes and novel therapies for patients with the condition.
“Unbelievably to me, this problem is still not understood or even known to exist by many people and it remains a very challenging disease to treat,” said team leader Dr Thomas Force. “The medical management of HCM has changed very little over the past decades.”
He went on, “HCM, a thickening of the heart muscle which makes it more difficult for it to pump blood, often manifests itself when it’s too late.”
“The reason it can be deadly is because people with the disease are often unaware that they have it and physical exertion, such as playing sports, can bring on the sudden, fatal series of events that causes the heart to go into arrest.”
“A cardiac exam in a general practitioner’s office is not very precise, and more detailed examinations such as routine ECGs would likely be prohibitively expensive and might still miss a significant number of children or could needlessly alarm parents and children,” he says.
“Some children with HCM have only a minor amount of hypertrophy in their hearts but they are still prone to sudden death, and people can experience sudden death before any symptoms of heart trouble occur. Again family history becomes very important in identifying potentials at risk”
Source: Medical News Today