The relationship between hypertrophy and dilatation in the postmortem heart

Clin Cardiol. 1988 May;11(5):297-302. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960110505.


Confusion may exist at the time of postmortem examination as to whether the diseased heart is dilated, hypertrophied, or both. Ventricular dilatation and ventricular hypertrophy were therefore evaluated by cardiac partition techniques in 441 subjects at autopsy to determine their relationship. Specific weight and surface area of each ventricle were obtained and patients were divided into categories of disease. Wall thickness measurements, a parameter routinely used in the ordinary autopsy, were found to be unreliable in defining hypertrophy. Ventricular surface area (an index of dilatation) was highly correlated with ventricular weight in most disease categories. Exceptions were cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis, in which hypertrophy predominated. We conclude from these data that dilatation and hypertrophy occur proportionately in the postmortem heart in most disease categories except in cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis. These findings clarify the relationship of dilatation and hypertrophy at the time of autopsy in most cases. Therefore, uncertainty as to whether cardiac dilatation or hypertrophy is present or which predominates is usually related to the inability to assess these states critically at the time of autopsy when the ordinary pathological methods are used.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomegaly / pathology
  • Dilatation, Pathologic
  • Heart Diseases / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Organ Size
  • Postmortem Changes