Objective—In some athletes with a substantial increase in left ventricular wall thickness, it may be difficult to distinguish with certainty physiological hypertrophy due to athletic training from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The purpose of the present investigation was to determine whether assessment of left ventricular filling could differentiate between these two conditions.
Design—Doppler echocardiography was used to obtain transmitral flow velocity waveforms from which indices of left ventricular diastolic filling were measured. Normal values were from 35 previously studied control subjects.
Setting—Athletes were selected mostly from the Institute of Sports Science (Rome, Italy), and patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy were studied at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland).
Participants—The athlete group comprised 16 young competitive athletes with an increase in left ventricular wall thickness (range 13–16 mm; mean 14). For comparison, 12 symptom free patients with non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy were selected because their ages and degree of hypertrophy were similar to those of the athletes.
Results—In the athlete group, values for deceleration of flow velocity in early diastole, peak early and late diastolic flow velocities, and their ratio were not significantly different from those obtained in untrained normal subjects; furthermore, Doppler diastolic indices were normal in each of the 16 athletes. Conversely, in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, mean values for Doppler diastolic indices were significantly different from both normal subjects and athletics (p = 0·01 to 0·003), and one or more indices were abnormal in 10 (83%) of the 12 patients.
Conclusions—Doppler echocardiographic indices of left ventricular filling may aid in distinguishing between pronounced physiological hypertrophy due to athletic training and pathological hypertrophy associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.