People who have cardiomyopathy but no signs or symptoms may not need treatment. Sometimes, dilated cardiomyopathy that comes on suddenly may go away on its own. For other people who have cardiomyopathy, treatment is needed. Treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy you have, the severity of your symptoms and complications, and your age and overall health. Treatments may include:
The main goals of treating cardiomyopathy include:
- Controlling signs and symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible
- Managing any conditions that cause or contribute to the disease
- Reducing complications and the risk of sudden cardiac arrest
- Stopping the disease from getting worse
Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to manage a condition that’s causing your cardiomyopathy including:
Many medicines are used to treat cardiomyopathy. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:
- Balance electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain fluid levels and acid-base balance in the body. They also help muscle and nerve tissues work properly. Abnormal electrolyte levels may be a sign of dehydration (lack of fluid in your body), heart failure, high blood pressure, or other disorders. Aldosterone blockers are an example of a medicine used to balance electrolytes.
- Keep your heart beating with a normal rhythm. These medicines, called antiarrhythmics, help prevent arrhythmias.
- Lower your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers are examples of medicines that lower blood pressure.
- Prevent blood clots from forming. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, are an example of a medicine that prevents blood clots. Blood thinners often are used to prevent blood clots from forming in people who have dilated cardiomyopathy.
- Reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids are an example of a medicine used to reduce inflammation.
- Remove excess sodium from your body. Diuretics, or water pills, are an example of medicines that help remove excess sodium from the body, which reduces the amount of fluid in your blood.
- Slow your heart rate. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin are examples of medicines that slow the heart rate. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers also are used to lower blood pressure.
Take all medicines regularly, as your doctor prescribes. Don’t change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to.
Septal myectomy is open-heart surgery and is used to treat people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and severe symptoms. This surgery generally is used for younger patients and for people whose medicines aren’t working well.
A surgeon removes part of the thickened septum that’s bulging into the left ventricle. This improves blood flow through the heart and out to the body. The removed tissue doesn’t grow back. If needed, the surgeon also can repair or replace the mitral valve at the same time. Septal myectomy often is successful and allows you to return to a normal life with no symptoms.
Surgeons can place several types of devices in the heart to improve function and symptoms, including:
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device. A CRT device coordinates contractions between the heart’s left and right ventricles.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD helps control life-threatening arrhythmias that may lead to sudden cardiac arrest. This small device is implanted in the chest or abdomen and connected to the heart with wires. If an ICD senses a dangerous change in heart rhythm, it will send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat.
- Left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This device helps the heart pump blood to the body. An LVAD can be used as a long-term therapy or as a short-term treatment for people who are waiting for a heart transplant.
- Pacemaker. This small device is placed under the skin of your chest or abdomen to help control arrhythmias. The device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.
For this surgery, a surgeon replaces a person’s diseased heart with a healthy heart from a deceased donor. A heart transplant is a last resort treatment for people who have end-stage heart failure. “End-stage” means the condition has become so severe that all treatments, other than heart transplant, have failed. For more information about this treatment, go to the Heart Transplant Health Topic.
Doctors may use a nonsurgical procedure called alcohol septal ablation to treat cardiomyopathy. During this procedure, the doctor injects ethanol (a type of alcohol) through a tube into the small artery that supplies blood to the thickened area of heart muscle. The alcohol kills cells, and the thickened tissue shrinks to a more normal size. This procedure allows blood to flow freely through the ventricle, which improves symptoms.