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Misdiagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in black Americans may be common medical malpractice

African American Patient with DoctorsMedical Malpractice may have been committed on many American Africans who were previously diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  A recent study found that some genetic variations that were linked to this condition were indeed harmless. These specific genetic variations were found more often in black Americans than in white Americans. Therefore many patients from African descent may have been misdiagnosed or are still being treated for a condition they don’t suffer from.

Also called, abnormally thick heart muscle, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease that affects 1 out of 500 Americans. The disorder can cause arrhythmia and can be fatal. Symptoms may include chest pain, difficulty, breathing, fatigue and swelling in the ankles and feet. For a complete list and diagnostic testing see The American Heart Association web site. Sometimes there are no symptoms.

Abnormally thick heart muscle is diagnosed through genetic testing. A patient who tests positive for  the condition will often be required to change his or her lifestyle. These changes may include healthy diet, additional physical activities, losing excessive weight or stopping smoking. Patients diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy  are often prescribed specific medication to treat the condition.  Various types of surgeries are also commonly used as well as  alcohol septal ablation, a noninvasive procedure.

Many patients mostly African Americans have been wrongly diagnosed with this condition according to a new study that was published on August 18th in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study entitled “Genetic Misdiagnoses and the Potential for Health Disparities” was lead by Dr Isaac Kohane at Harvard School of Medicine.

The study analysed the DNA of 8,000 people. Researchers found out that 5 genetic variations that were wrongly classified as causing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy were indeed harmless. Many of the people studied carried these 5 variations but didn’t suffer from the disease. These people were mostly African Americans. Researchers found that some of them were misdiagnosed with abnormally thick heart muscle.

If you are of African ancestry and you have been genetically diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, you should talk to your doctor about this recent research, especially if you don’t exhibit any symptoms.

Picture: courtesy of Wikipedia