Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HC) is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death or death from heart failure. Little is known of the pathologic substrate for risk of premature death in this disease. We therefore set out to correlate the pathologic findings with the mode of death and risk profile in 75 patients with HC. Hearts with HC were obtained after death or transplantation. The clinical details were correlated with the macroscopic findings and the percent fibrosis, disarray, and small-vessel disease across 19 sections of each heart. Thirty-nine patients died suddenly, 28 had end-stage heart failure, and 8 died of other causes. Myocyte disarray correlated positively with evidence of ischemia (r = 0.5, p <0.0001), and was greater in patients who died before age 21 years (mean disarray 33% vs 18%, p <0.0001) and in those with an abnormal vascular response to exercise (mean disarray and 30% vs 19%, p = 0.04). Myocardial fibrosis was greater in patients who died in heart failure (mean percent fibrosis was 2.8% versus 0.9%, p = 0.003), and in patients with nonsustained ventricular tachycardia or a high risk fractionation study (4.9% vs 2.7%, p = 0.04, and 6.84% vs 2.8%, p = 0.03, respectively). In conclusion, young patients who die with HC have greater disarray than their older counterparts. In contrast, myocardial fibrosis is the substrate for premature deaths from heart failure and is associated with an increased risk of a primary ventricular arrhythmia.