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Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

Diagnosis

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Peripartum cardiomyopathy is usually diagnosed with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and a chest X-ray. Sometimes evidence of this condition will turn up on an electrocardiogram (EKG). Occasionally biopsies of heart tissue (endomyocardial biopsies) are done, but this is an invasive procedure that has fallen out of favor with some cardiologists.

An echocardiogram is most typically used to diagnose the condition. It takes about 20 minutes and can be done in the cardiologist's office. It's non-invasive, which is a plus. The technician has to press on left breast tissue to view elements of the left ventricle. In my case, the technician pressed rather hard, and I was quite uncomfortable during parts of the test.

Echocardiograms measure the size of the heart and the left ventricle's ejection fraction. The ejection fraction, which measures the percentage of blood being pumped through the left ventricle with every heartbeat, is an *estimate* and can vary a bit depending on who reads the echo. Usually, a normal heart has an ejection fraction of 55 percent or higher.

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