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What are inherited cardiac conditions?
Inherited cardiac conditions are caused by coding mistakes in the DNA, also known as DNA mutations. The mutations occur in specific places in the genetic code and may lead to a number of heart issues such as:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle thickening and fibrosis that causes stiffening of the heart muscle and increases the risk of an irregular heart rhythm
- Dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged left ventricle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood
- Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, a replacement of a ventricle by abnormal tissue that leads to life threatening rhythm problems
- Channelopathies, sometimes dangerous conditions that can cause abnormal heartbeats and cardiac arrest
- Long QT syndrome
- Brugada syndrome
- Early repolarization syndrome
- Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT)
- Idiopathic ventricular fibrillation
- Familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition that affects how the body processes cholesterol and increases risk of heart disease and early heart attack
- Unexpected sudden cardiac death
Inherited cardiac conditions can be present at birth but go undetected until later in life. In extreme cases, they are only discovered after sudden death.
How do you diagnose inherited cardiac conditions?
Mayo Clinic Healthcare's Inherited Cardiac Conditions Clinic is staffed by experts in cardiology, genetics, genetic counseling and diagnostics. These specialists work as a team to evaluate and reduce your risk of heart disease caused by genetic factors.
Clinic specialists assess people who have:
- Diagnosis of an inherited cardiac condition
- Symptoms that align with inherited cardiac conditions, such as palpitations, blackouts, breathlessness or chest pain
- A family history of cardiac conditions or sudden death
Your evaluation will generally begin with care from a cardiac genetic nurse or counselor. These experts will discuss your health history and family history of heart disease and sudden death. Your genetic counselor will help you understand the genetic evaluation process, possible tests and what results may mean. Based on these evaluations, you may be recommended to receive:
After testing, you will confer with a cardiologist, who will go deeper into your family history, assess your personal risk of those conditions and their complications, and suggest appropriate follow-up. Your cardiologist will take time to thoroughly discuss test results with you and address any concerns you have. Together, you and your cardiologist will develop a tailored treatment plan that fits your health goals.
Because these genetic conditions can be inherited, family members sometimes can be evaluated together.
What are the treatment options for inherited cardiac conditions?
After diagnosing your exact condition, Inherited Cardiac Conditions Clinic specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan individualized to your needs. Your care plan will address your risk of developing atypical heart rhythms and other complications.
Depending on your conditions, a wide range of treatment options are available. In some cases, you may just need to monitor your activities and avoid certain medications. Other options may include:
- Lifestyle changes to avoid risky activities
- Medication adjustments to find alternatives to drugs that cause certain conditions
- Surgery to remove or adjust tissues or nerves causing issues
- Implantation of a defibrillator that delivers a shock when needed to regulate atypical heartbeats
- Implantation of a pacemaker to control your heartbeat
- Other procedures
Many other options may be available to treat your exact condition. Your Mayo Clinic Healthcare cardiologist will take time to review all options with you so you understand the benefits and disadvantages of each one.
After your consultation, a Mayo Clinic Healthcare expert will share your treatment plan with your primary care provider and answer any questions.