Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy | William G. & Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine | Loyola Medicine

Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

Overview and Facts about Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

Nonischemic cardiomyopathy is a general term which includes any cause of abnormal heart function other than those caused by blocked arteries or heart attack. A normally functioning heart pumps 55 to 65 percent of the blood it contains to the rest of the body. Anything less than 50 percent is considered below normal and is labeled nonischemic cardiomyopathy.

Signs and Symptoms of Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

Signs and symptoms of nonischemic cardiomyopathy include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Fainting attacks
  • Swelling of feet and ankles

Causes and Risk Factors of Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

The most common causes of nonischemic cardiomyopathy are:

  • Inflammation or autoimmune reactions
  • Viral infection
  • Reactions to medication

This heart condition can affect people of any age. The most common risk factors include:

Tests and Diagnosis of Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests to check for nonischemic cardiomyopathy:

  • Echocardiogram: This is an ultrasound of the heart and will show the size and function of your heart.
  • Stress test: You will exercise while your heartbeat and other functions are measured.
  • Angiogram: This is a type of X-ray that can detect blockages in the blood vessels.

Treatment and Care for Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy

The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend upon the extent to which cardiomyopathy has damaged your heart as well as on the symptoms you are experiencing. In some cases, you will not need treatment until symptoms arise. However, if you are experiencing chest pain or struggling with breathlessness, you will need to make some lifestyle changes or take medication.

Although ischemic cardiomyopathy cannot be cured, it can be controlled with the following options:

  • Heart-healthy lifestyle changes
  • Surgically implanted devices such as a pacemaker
  • Beta-blockers to prevent high blood pressure
  • Diuretics to prevent water retention
  • ACE-inhibitors to help maintain a healthy heart rhythm

Your doctor may recommend a heart transplant as a last resort.