Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease of the heart where the certain elements of the heart muscle is thickened. The thickening can lead to a misalignment of the muscle cells, which can lead to disruptions in the electrical functions of the heart.

You might not have heard of HCM before, but you’ve likely heard of its effects in the news (Fabrice Muamba, Alexander Dale Oen) as HCM is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. 

Unfortunately, the younger the individual diagnosed with HCM is, the more likely they have a more severe form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The signs and symptoms of HCM are usually very mild, but can include shortness of breath, chest pain, unusual heart palpitations, fatigue, fainting and sudden cardiac death.

Often, HCM shows no symptom before sudden cardiac death occurs, making HCM difficult to diagnose and treat. There are several risk factors that will increase the probability of sudden cardiac death:

  • HCM diagnosed at a young age (less than 30)
  • An episode of sudden cardiac arrest
  • Family history of HCM with sudden death
  • Recurrent fainting

However, knowing these factors, it is possible to be prepared for a sudden cardiac arrest. In patients who are deemed to be high risk, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be implanted. An ICD is the most effective and reliable treatment option available. There are also surgical options involving open heart surgery for patients who remain severely symptomatic.

One other option for those with HCM is to have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on hand in the event a sudden cardiac arrest occurs. When an AED is applied within the first 3 minutes of cardiac arrest, the chances of survival can increase to 75 percent or more.

Recently, Global Medical Services held a contest in honour of heart month,  to giveaway an AED to a person or organization in need. Aside from helping a person in need, the giveaway was meant to highlight the importance of AEDs and raise awareness of these life-saving devices.

The winner of our AED Giveaway, the Kopytko family, whose young child, Mitchell, was born with HCM are ecstatic that they no longer have to worry if there is an AED around or not.

“As a parent I spend much of my day worrying that if he were to have a cardiac incident it would be too late by the time it was recognized, and the paramedics were called,” said Melanie, his mother.

Read the Kopytko story

It is our belief that AEDs should be publically accessible. In recent years, AEDs have made great headway in this respect, but we still have a ways to go. You just never know who will be walking through a mall or an airport when an AED will be needed.  All we can do is be prepared.

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