Background: Tissues that depend on aerobic energy metabolism suffer most in diseases caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Cardiac abnormalities have been described in many cases, but their frequency and clinical spectrum among patients with mtDNA mutations is unknown.
Methods: Thirty-nine patients with the 3243A>G mtDNA mutation were examined, methods used included clinical evaluation, electrocardiogram, Holter recording and echocardiography. Autopsy reports on 17 deceased subjects were also reviewed. The degree of 3243A>G mutation heteroplasmy was determined using an Apa I restriction fragment analysis. Better hearing level (BEHL0.5-4 kHz) was used as a measure of the clinical severity of disease.
Results: Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) was diagnosed in 19 patients (56%) by echocardiography and in six controls (15%) giving an odds ratio of 7.5 (95% confidence interval; 1.74-67). The dimensions of the left ventricle suggested a concentric hypertrophy. Left ventricular systolic or diastolic dysfunction was observed in 11 patients. Holter recording revealed frequent ventricular extrasystoles (>10/h) in five patients. Patients with LVH differed significantly from those without LVH in BEHL0.5-4 kHz, whereas the contribution of age or the degree of the mutant heteroplasmy in skeletal muscle to the risk of LVH was less remarkable.
Conclusions: Structural and functional abnormalities of the heart were common in patients with 3243A>G. The risk of LVH was related to the clinical severity of the phenotype, and to a lesser degree to age, suggesting that patients presenting with any symptoms from the mutation should also be evaluated for cardiac abnormalities.