Alcoholic cardiomyopathy

Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1994 Feb;8(1):89-94. doi: 10.1007/BF00877094.


Clinical observations over the past two decades have pointed to the relationship between heart disease and alcohol abuse, usually without evident malnutrition or cirrhosis. While the prevalence of heart failure in the alcoholic population is now known, subclinical abnormalities of left ventricular function in noncardiac alcoholics who were normotensive have a high prevalence with or without some degree of ventricular hypertrophy by echocardiogram. This is frequently a diastolic rather than systolic abnormality. Congestive cardiomyopathy is not infrequently associated with high diastolic arterial blood pressures. Intoxication itself may contribute to blood pressure elevation. Angina pectoris in the absence of significant coronary disease is another presentation. Although the history may not be readily obtained, the major diagnostic feature in this entity is the history of ethanol ingestion in intoxicating amounts for at least 10 years, often marked by periods of spree drinking. While the course of congestive cardiomyopathy may be progressively downhill in individuals who continue to be actively alcoholic after the onset of heart failure, in one series one third of the patients became abstinent. These patients had a 4 year mortality that was persistently one-sixth of the alcoholic group. Management of heart failure is traditional in these patients. Atrial arrhythmias have been shown to occur during the early ethanol withdrawal phase in patients without other clinical evidence of heart disease. Sudden death in a segment of the alcoholic population is considered arrhythmia related and is commonly associated with cigarette use. Identification of the addicted individual is the essential element to management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathy, Alcoholic / drug therapy
  • Cardiomyopathy, Alcoholic / physiopathology*
  • Diastole / physiology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Male