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Randy Travis hospitalized with viral cardiomyopathy: What is it?

Country music star Randy Travis was hospitalized in Texas on Sunday with viral cardiomyopathy and is listed in critical condition, according to his website.

Viral cardiomyopathy is a form of heart disease in which the heart muscle becomes weakened due to viral infection, according to the National Institutes of Health. It currently affects about 500,000 Americans, says the Texas Heart Institute, but many of them are unaware of their condition.

While few details are known about Travis’ case, Dr. Robert Greenfield, a cardiologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center Fountain Valley, Calif., said that viral cardiomyopathy is often used as a preliminary diagnosis of heart failure.

“The diagnosis of viral cardiomyopathy is just a presumption,” Greenfield said.

“If you want to call it viral, it means you’ve isolated a virus. Normally it takes weeks to go a special viral lab to document that you’ve found a virus in the heart muscle. You’d need to have a heart biopsy,” he said.

The diagnosis of viral cardiomyopathy likely means Travis suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, according to Greenfield, in which the heart chamber becomes enlarged and the heart muscle pumps less blood with each contraction. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and even congestive heart failure, in which the lungs and other organs fill with fluid.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can be caused by a virus, but can also be caused by alcoholism or pregnancy, Greenfield said. Recent research indicates that there is a strong genetic component to the disease.

“It can run in families. It would be very interesting to see what his family history and family tree was,” Greenfield added.

In a statement made to People, Travis’ sister-in-law Teresa Traywick said that his mother passed away from heart problems.

Return to Science Now.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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