The athlete's heart and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: two conditions which may be misdiagnosed and coexistent. Which parameters should be analysed to distinguish one disease from the other?

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According to the statements from the International Cardiological Committees on Eligibility for Sports, athletes with a clinical diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) should be excluded from most competitive sports, with the possible exception of those of low intensity. Clinical distinctions between physiological athlete's heart and pathological conditions such as HCM have critical implications especially for trained athletes. Even if the standard two-dimensional echocardiography represents an irreplaceable method in the evaluation of cardiac adaptations to physical exercise, the data currently available suggest the usefulness of Doppler myocardial imaging (DMI) in the assessment of the myocardial systolic and diastolic function of the athlete's heart. On this ground, the combined use of standard two-dimensional echocardiography and DMI may be taken into account for a valid, non-invasive and easily repeatable evaluation of both physiological and pathological ventricular hypertrophy, and in selecting a subgroup of HCM patients at higher risk of cardiac events. In particular, DMI analysis in the trained individual has demonstrated an interesting opportunity for: (1) the differential diagnosis from pathological left ventricular hypertrophy due to HCM; (2) the prediction of cardiac performance during physical effort; (3) the evaluation of bi-ventricular interaction; (4) the analysis of myocardial adaptations to various training protocols; and (5) the early identification of specific genotypes associated with cardiomyopathies.

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