Patients with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy have abnormally thickened walls of the the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber. The interventricular septum – the wall of muscle between the two ventricles of the heart – is often excessively thickened. This thickened wall can interfere with the function of the mitral valve and can block the flow of blood out of the heart.
The inefficient blood flow causes the pressure in the heart to increase, making the left ventricle work harder, and resulting in further thickening of the walls of the left ventricle over time. People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, syncope (sudden fainting), and even sudden death.
Treatments for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include medication to control the heart's contraction, insertion of pacemakers to prevent arrhythmias, and – when medications fail – surgical thinning of the thickened septum. Interventional cardiologists at NewYork-Presbyterian offer alcohol septal ablation as an alternative to surgery in select patients. This relatively new treatment actually reduces the obstruction and improves blood flow out of the heart. In addition, it often improves the function of the mitral valve.