The electrocardiogram in the diagnosis and management of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy

Eur J Heart Fail. 2020 Jul;22(7):1097-1107. doi: 10.1002/ejhf.1815. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


The term dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) defines a heterogeneous group of cardiac disorders, which are characterized by left ventricular or biventricular dilatation and systolic dysfunction in the absence of abnormal loading conditions or coronary artery disease sufficient to cause global systolic impairment. In approximately one third of cases, DCM is familial with a genetic pathogenesis and various patterns of inheritance. Although the electrocardiogram (ECG) has been considered traditionally non-specific in DCM, the recently acquired knowledge of the genotype-phenotype correlations provides novel opportunities to identify patterns and abnormalities that may point toward specific DCM subtypes. A learned ECG interpretation in combination with an appropriate use of other ECG-based techniques including ambulatory ECG monitoring, exercise tolerance test and imaging modalities, such as echocardiography and cardiovascular magnetic resonance, may allow the early identification of specific genetic or acquired forms of DCM. Furthermore, ECG abnormalities may reflect the severity of the disease and provide a useful tool in risk stratification and management. In the present review, we discuss the current role of the ECG in the diagnosis and management of DCM. We describe various clinical settings where the appropriate use and interpretation of the ECG can provide invaluable clues, contributing to the important role of this basic tool as cardiovascular medicine evolves.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Dilated cardiomyopathy; Electrocardiogram; Management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated* / diagnosis
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated* / genetics
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated* / therapy
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Failure*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment