Ischemic Cardiomyopathy: Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

There are numerous kinds of heart problems and this lesson is going to go over the causes, signs, and symptoms of one of them. It's called ischemic cardiomyopathy.

Ischemic Cardiomyopathy

City pipes channel water to your home. What is water? A nutrient that keeps you alive. Similarly, your body's arteries channel oxygenated blood to your tissues. And what is blood? Something that carries oxygen and nutrients to keep your tissues alive.

If an artery constricts too much or becomes significantly obstructed, then the tissue supplied by that artery won't receive enough oxygenated blood. Such a morbid state is known as ischemia and it might lead to the permanent dysfunction of the tissue it affects if not corrected in time.

When the ischemia occurs in and causes a problem of the heart, this is called ischemic cardiomyopathy.

Let's learn about the signs, symptoms, and causes of ischemic cardiomyopathy.


Ischemic cardiomyopathy is a term that more specifically refers to the significant dysfunction of the heart's left ventricle, namely as a result of myocardial infarction or coronary artery disease. The left ventricle is one of the four chambers of the heart. It is the chamber that pumps oxygenated blood out from the heart and into general arterial circulation.

Myocardial infarction is the technical term for a heart attack. A heart attack can occur for multiple reasons, but one big reason for heart attacks is the blockage of coronary arteries by a blood clot. Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygenated blood. If an artery gets blocked by a blood clot, then (like a city pipe blocked with a plug of some sort) it can't deliver its contents to anything past the point of blockage. That means a section of heart muscle doesn't receive oxygenated blood.

The other major reason for ischemic cardiomyopathy, one that makes a heart attack also more likely to occur, is coronary artery disease. This is a general term for a condition where, among other things, the coronary arteries narrow. With narrowed coronary arteries, less oxygenated blood can get through to the heart muscle.

In this image, coronary artery disease predisposed a person to a heart attack.

Signs & Symptoms

So, what signs and symptoms can we expect in a person with ischemic cardiomyopathy? They include the likes of:

  • Angina, which is chest pain that occurs as a result of a heart problem
  • Dyspnea, or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Edema, or swelling of the tissues (namely in the legs/feet in this particular case)
  • Syncope, or fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Lesson Summary

Ischemia, an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to a tissue, can affect the heart. This could be as a result of a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, or as a result of coronary artery disease, where the coronary arteries narrow. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood. In either case, the heart's left ventricle may dysfunction quite significantly. The left ventricle is the one that pumps oxygenated blood into systemic (body-wide) circulation.

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