Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart either fills or contracts poorly due to heart muscle malfunction. It may affect one or both of the lower heart chambers, or ventricles. The abnormal heart function can also affect the lungs, liver and other body systems.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is often linked to a disease of the heart muscle. The most typical type of restrictive cardiomyopathy, known as stiff heart syndrome, results from deposits of a protein called amyloid in the heart muscle. These deposits interfere with the heart’s contractive function. Sometimes the heart muscle becomes damaged from an ischemic event like a heart attack or from unknown cause (idiopathic myocardial fibrosis).

Symptoms of Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
The symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy may include the following: 

  • Shortness of breath, during exercise or while sleeping 
  • Fatigue or lack of energy 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Abdominal swelling 
  • Lower extremity swelling (feet, ankles or calves) 
  • Palpitations, uneven rhythms of the heart 
  • Chest pain 
  • Decreased urine output


Symptoms often develop gradually, but in some cases the onset may be sudden or acute.

Diagnosing and Treating Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is distinguished from other causes of heart failure by a variety of tests and physical screenings. Because there is no cure, treatment can only help to control symptoms and improve quality of life. Medications, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), water pills (diuretics) and steroids may be used in various combinations.

Heart transplant may be considered for patients whose heart function is greatly impaired, resulting in severe symptoms that cannot be controlled medically.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing coronary disease at the following convenient locations.