Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson defines restrictive cardiomyopathy. You'll learn exactly what happens during this disease, what its causes might be, as well as some of the major signs and symptoms of the disorder.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Someone who looks really stiff is probably someone who's having a hard time relaxing, right? Well, your heart can also be so stiff that it can't properly relax to fill with adequate amounts of blood. This is known as restrictive cardiomyopathy, formerly (and less accurately) called constrictive cardiomyopathy just in case you read that term somewhere else.

Let's learn more about the causes, signs, and symptoms of this heart condition.

More on Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

In restrictive cardiomyopathy, one or both ventricles (the bottom and larger chambers of the heart) do not relax enough to fill themselves with adequate amounts of blood during diastole. Diastole is the 'relaxed' phase of the heart cycle, where the heart fills with blood. This condition involves normal or almost normal heart function during systole and a normal or near normal thickness to the heart muscle. Systole is the part of the heart cycle where the heart contracts and squeezes blood forward into the next part of the cardiovascular system, like general circulation.


The causes of restrictive cardiomyopathy are numerous. The underlying causes include:

  • Genetic disorders, like Noonan syndrome.
  • Scar tissue formation within the heart known as endomyocardial fibrosis. Scar tissue restricts the relaxation of the heart.
  • Amyloidosis, which involves the deposition of a protein called amyloid within the heart.
  • Sarcoidosis, which involves the development of tumor-like lumps called granulomas.
  • Anthracycline toxicity. Anthracycline is an anti-cancer drug.
  • As an association with other disorders, like skeletal muscle myopathy.

Signs & Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, you already know that since the heart can't fill with enough blood during diastole, it doesn't push out as much blood into circulation as it should during systole. This leads to:

  • Fatigue and exercise intolerance since the body's tissues aren't getting enough oxygenated blood
  • A rapid pulse to try and compensate for this lack of blood delivery. So while the heart doesn't squeeze much blood into circulation due to a diastolic filling defect, it might try to beat faster to deliver more blood in order to compensate.

Because the heart cannot fill properly with blood, the blood also backs up into the lungs and the body as a whole. This backup can cause:

  • Lung issues, like difficulty breathing or a cough. This can also happen at night.
  • Swelling of the abdomen, called ascites.
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles, which are signs of peripheral edema.
  • Liver area tenderness due to an enlarged and swollen liver.

Other issues include:

  • Angina, or chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation
  • Syncope, or fainting

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