Cardiomyopathy can be diagnosed by common cardiology tests. These tests include noninvasive imaging such as echocardiogram or ultrasound. Other more sophisticated tests may also be used, including cardiac CT and cardiac MRI. Certain blood tests are also necessary to rule out infectious agents and endocrine causes as well as toxic agents to the heart.
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Piedmont Heart Institute answered
Patients who present with cardiomyopathy usually present with heart failure. The symptoms are related to the severity of the disease process. Therefore, some patients who have weak hearts or mild cardiomyopathies can be asymptomatic. Patients who have severe cardiomyopathies will present with shortness of breath, low exercise tolerance and general weakness. They may or may not have chest pain associated with this. The number one tool doctors use is called a cardiac ultrasound This allows us to actually see the heart, determine that it is weak, and many times that the heart is enlarged. Ultrasound help us follow the disease process and response to medical therapy. There are other modalities including x-ray studies, and cardiac catheterization to determine how the vessels feeding the heart are doing, as well as response to medications. There are certain genetic studies that are used as well to help us diagnose cardiomyopathy and the relationship to the genetic predisposition. A great deal of research now is focusing on how we can diagnose patients who are at risk for developing cardiomyopathy before they actually develop symptoms of this disease.
Johns Hopkins Medicine answered
After a thorough initial exam, you can expect to undergo several tests if you are going to be evaluated for cardiomyopathy. Based on your doctor's recommendations, you may have to undergo any combination of the following tests:Electrocardiogram - Also called an ECG or EKG, an electrocardiogram records your heart's electrical activity during rest to determine abnormal heart rhythms.
Cardiac catheterization - Will evaluate pressure in the heart and whether any blockages are present in your coronary arteries. This test involves inserting a thin plastic tube through a blood vessel until it reaches the heart; injecting a dye into the blood vessels; and taking X-rays to assess the heart's structure and function.
Blood work - To looking for specific causes like thyroid disease or HIV.
Echocardiogram - Uses ultrasound waves to image the heart's structure and movement.
A biopsy - Or small sample, of the heart muscle or tissue is taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This helps determine the extent of disease.
General: Because the most common symptom of cardiomyopathy is heart failure, diagnosis of cardiomyopathy follows similar guidelines for evaluating heart failure. Physical examination, blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), echocardiogram, chest X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cardiac catheterization, stress test, and nuclear stress test are used to diagnose cardiomyopathy. These tests may also reveal structural defects in the heart muscle (myocardium) that are characteristic of cardiomyopathy.
Classifying heart failure: Results of these tests help doctors determine the cause of CHF and develop a program to treat the heart. To determine the best course of treatment, doctors may classify heart failure using one of two scales. The New York Heart Association scale classifies heart failure in categories from one to four. In class I heart failure, the mildest form, individuals can perform everyday activities and not feel winded or fatigued. Individuals with class II have slight limitation of physical activity and ordinary physical activity may result in fatigue, palpitation (pounding or racing), shortness of breath, or chest pain. Those with class III have marked limitation of physical activity and less than ordinary activity causes fatigue, palpitation, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Class IV is the most severe, and individuals have shortness of breath even at rest.
The American College of Cardiology scale uses letters A-D. The system includes a category for individuals who are at risk of developing heart failure. Early stage heart failure includes stage A (individuals are at risk for developing heart failure without evidence of heart dysfunction) and stage B (there is evidence of heart dysfunction without symptoms). Advanced stage heart failure includes stage C (there is evidence of heart dysfunction with symptoms) and stage D (there are symptoms of heart failure despite maximal therapy). Doctors can use these classifications to identify the risk factors and begin early, more aggressive treatment to help prevent or delay heart failure.
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The condition usually can be diagnosed by characteristic physical findings, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, and, if doubt still exists, cardiac catheterization and radionuclide angiography. A biopsy of the heart wall tissue may help distinguish between the different types of cardiomyopathy.