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Differentiation between athlete’s heart and dilated cardiomyopathy in athletic individuals
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  • Published on:
    A new role for exercise echocardiography? Can we abandon athletic deconditioning advice?
    • Monica Monaghan, Consultant cardiologist South West Acute Hospital Western Heath and Social Care Trust
    • Other Contributors:
      • Shiva Sreenivasan, Consultant acute physician

    The benefits of regular exercise are non deniable with reduction in all cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality (1,2,3). Endurance exercise with increase in cardiac output results in dilatation of left ventricular cavity size and eccentric hypertrophy with low normal ejection fraction that is a dilated cardiomyopathy phenocopy. The ability to distinguish true pathology from physiological remodelling remains a difficult area for cardiologists. Frequently asymptomatic athletic individuals are referred to the cardiology service with abnormal resting 12 lead ECGs. They must be appropriately investigated. The dimema for the investigating cardiologist is to determine the healthy athlete from the athlete with DCM. An erroneous diagnosis of DCM in an athlete may lead to unnecessary disqualification from sport, unnecessary pharmacotherapy and a decline in physical and psychological well being as well as implications for life insurance. Millar et al study adds vital information to the field (4). It is reassuring that the study reported that none of the athletes with a physiologically increased LV size and borderline or low resting LV ejection fraction (grey-zone participants) had replacement fibrosis of the left ventricular myocardium on cardiac MRI. In addition, the authors have reported that functional assessment of the heart by stress echocardiography can discriminate between DCM and DCM phenocopy with high sensitivity and specificity. This study will likely be a game...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.