Amyloidosis refers to a group of diseases caused by deposits of abnormal proteins, known as amyloid, in one or more organs of the body. Deposition of amyloid in the heart is known as cardiac amyloidosis or amyloid heart disease. When this occurs, the heart becomes stiff, causing fluid build-up in the lungs that leads to breathlessness and fluid buildup in soft tissues, which, in turn, leads to leg and abdominal swelling.
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Cardiac Amyloidosis Program is a unique service that focuses exclusively on this elusive and deadly condition. Our Program was established to fill a significant void in the diagnosis and treatment of systemic amyloidosis, acquire a better understanding of cardiac amyloidosis, specifically, and improve care for patients who have the disease.
An international referral site, the Cardiac Amyloidosis program is part of the BWH Heart & Vascular Center and is located within the state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.
Although the root cause of amyloidosis is unknown, there are several risk factors, including:
The first symptom to appear depends upon the organ or organs involved. The following are some of the more common indications of cardiac amyloidosis. These symptoms are common to many forms of heart disease. The diagnosis of amyloidosis as their root cause relies on a careful patient history and physical examination, combined with the results of specialized cardiac tests. Patients with cardiac amyloidosis may have these symptoms:
Before a patient comes for their first appointment, we ask that they provide us with a detailed medical history. This will help us to care for them more efficiently.
During the evaluation appointment, every patient will have:
Some patients will have:
For patients with suspected AL (primary) amyloidosis which affects the bone marrow:
Other diagnostic and evaluation services include:
View a series of short echocardiography video clips that reveal typical features of cardiac amyloidosis.
Treatment for each patient will vary according to the type of amyloidosis they have, how far the disease has progressed, and the presence of any underlying conditions.
Specialized treatments for patients with cardiac amyloidosis include:
When all other measures have proven ineffective, physicians may recommend heart transplantation.
The Cardiac Amyloidosis Program provides patient care coordination with non-cardiac specialists for co-existing conditions such as pulmonary hypertension, peripheral and autonomic neuropathy and renal and gastroenterological disorders.
Treatment for Complications of Amyloid Heart Disease
Research and Clinical Trials
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the site of new discoveries and ongoing research in cardiac amyloidosis, including the use of new medications and highly sensitive echocardiographic techniques for distinguishing cardiac amyloidosis from other heart diseases. Learn more about our research and clinical trials.
The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, across the street from BWH’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.
The day of surgery, you care will be provided by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with amyloidosis. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
During your surgery, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center. Staff members will provide surgery updates and caregivers who leave the hospital will be contacted by cell phone.
Led by Rodney H. Falk, MD, widely recognized as a cardiac amyloidosis expert, our team includes specialists in cardiovascular medicine, cardiac pathology, cardiac imaging, cardiac surgery, gastroenterology, hematology, nephrology, neurology and cardiac research – all Harvard Medical School faculty with extensive experience in cardiac amyloidosis. We work closely with patients and referring physicians, providing the highest standard of medical and supportive care, combined with cutting-edge research and clinical trials.
Learn more about BWH research and clinical trials in cardiac amyloidosis.
Learn more about amyloidosis and other causes of cardiomyopathy in our health library.
Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center where patients and families can access computers and knowledgeable staff.
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