Objectives: This study was performed to evaluate the characteristics, mode of inheritance and etiology of familial dilated cardiomyopathy (FDC).
Background: A genetic form of disease transmission has been identified in a relevant proportion of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Variable clinical characteristics and patterns of inheritance, and an increased frequency of cardiac antibodies have been reported. An analysis of FDC may improve the understanding of the disease and the management of patients.
Methods: Of 350 consecutive patients with idiopathic DCM, 281 relatives from 60 families were examined. Family studies included clinical examination, electrocardiography, echocardiography and blood sampling. Of the 60 DCM index patients examined, 39 were attributable to FDC and 21 were due to sporadic DCM. Clinical features, histology, mode of inheritance and autoimmune serology were examined, molecular genetic studies were undertaken and the difference between familial and sporadic forms was analyzed.
Results: Only a younger age (p = 0.0005) and a higher ejection fraction (p = 0.03) could clinically distinguish FDC patients from those with sporadic DCM. However, a number of distinct subtypes of FDC were identified: 1) autosomal dominant, the most frequent form (56%); 2) autosomal recessive (16%), characterized by worse prognosis; 3) X-linked FDC (10%), with different mutations of the dystrophin gene; 4) a novel form of autosomal dominant DCM with subclinical skeletal muscle disease (7.7%); 5) FDC with conduction defects (2.6%), and 6) rare unclassifiable forms (7.7%). The forms with skeletal muscle involvement were characterized by a restrictive filling pattern; the forms with isolated cardiomyopathy had an increased frequency of organ-specific cardiac autoantibodies. Histologic signs of myocarditis were frequent and nonspecific.
Conclusions: Familial dilated cardiomyopathy is frequent, cannot be predicted on a clinical or morphologic basis and requires family screening for identification. The phenotypic heterogeneity, different patterns of transmission, different frequencies of cardiac autoantibodies and the initial molecular genetic data indicate that multiple genes and pathogenetic mechanisms can lead to FDC.