Cardiac amyloidosis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Amyloidosis – cardiac, Primary cardiac amyloidosis – AL type, Secondary cardiac amyloidosis – AA type, Stiff heart syndrome, Senile amyloidosis

Definition

Cardiac amyloidosis is a disorder caused by deposits of an abnormal protein (amyloid) in the heart tissue, which make it hard for the heart to work properly.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Amyloidosis refers to a family of diseases in which there is a buildup of clumps of proteins called amyloids in body tissues and organs. These proteins slowly replace normal tissue, leading to failure of the involved organ. There are many forms of amyloidosis.

Cardiac amyloidosis usually occurs during primary amyloidosis (AL type amyloidosis). Primary amyloidosis is often seen in people with multiple myeloma cancer.

Cardiac amyloidosis (“stiff heart syndrome”) occurs when amyloid deposits take the place of normal heart muscle. It is the most typical type of restrictive cardiomyopathy. Cardiac amyloidosis may affect the way electrical signals move through the heart (conduction system). This can lead to arrhythmias and conduction disturbances (heart block).

Secondary amyloidosis (AA type) rarely affects the heart. However, a form of secondary amyloidosis called senile amyloidosis involves the heart and blood vessels. Senile amyloidosis is caused by overproduction of a different protein. The condition is becoming more common as the average age of the population increases.

Cardiac amyloidosis is more common in men than in women. The disease is rare in people under age 40.

Pictures & Images

Heart, section through the middle

The interior of the heart is composed of valves, chambers, and associated vessels.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy involves enlargement of the heart muscle and is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump blood efficiently. Decreased heart function affects the lungs, liver, and other body systems.


Review Date : 5/15/2008
Reviewed By : Alan Berger, MD, Assistant Professor, Divisions of Cardiology and Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc

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