Signs and Testing

Diagnosis

How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

HCM is diagnosed based on medical history (patients’ symptoms and family history), a physical exam, and echocardiogram results. Additional tests may include blood tests, electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, exercise stress test, cardiac catheterization, CT scan, and MRI.

A growing number of HCM patients are being identified later in life and are referred to as “adult onset”.  In the early literature the occurrence of adult onset appeared rare, now it appears to be far more common.  Therefore, in recent years, those with a family history of HCM, who have not had genetic testing, are encouraged to continue to be screened every 5 years after the age of 25, or if symptoms occur sooner, for the remainder of life.

The Gregory M. Hirsch Heart Foundation utilizes these two important tests in our free screenings for high school freshman:

Echocardiogram is the most common test to diagnose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Using echocardiogram images, the doctor can see the thickness of the heart muscle, whether blood flow is obstructed and if the heart valves are moving normally.

An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart. An echocardiogram allows the doctor to see the complicated movement of the heart in motion — ventricles squeezing and relaxing, and valves opening and closing in rhythm with the heartbeat. The doctor can use these images to identify abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves.

Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test records the electrical activity of your heart. It’s done to detect abnormal electrical signals that may result from the thickened heart muscle.