Morphology and significance of the left ventricular collagen network in young patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and sudden cardiac death

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Journal of the American College of Cardiology


BACKGROUND: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a primary cardiac disease with a diverse clinical spectrum, in which many of the abnormal structural and pathophysiologic features are consequences of inappropriate left ventricular hypertrophy. METHODS: We analyzed the amount, distribution and structure of the cardiac collagen network in transmural sections of the ventricular septum (thickness 17 to 40 mm, mean 25 mm) in 16 previously asymptomatic children and young adults with HCM (11 to 31 years of age, mean 20 years) who died suddenly. The morphologic appearance and volume fractions of interstitial (matrix) and perivascular (adventitial) collagen were analyzed with polarization microscopy and computerized videodensitometry in picrosirius red-stained sections. Findings were compared with 16 structurally normal hearts, 5 with systemic hypertension and 6 infants who died of HCM. RESULTS: Adults and young children with HCM had an eightfold greater amount of matrix collagen compared with normal controls (14.1 ± 8.8% vs. 1.8 ± 1% of the tissue section; p < 0.0001), and a threefold increase compared with patients with systemic hypertension (4.5 ± 1.3%; p < 0.001) and infants with HCM (4.0 ± 2.4%; p < 0.001). Compared with normal controls and hypertensives, adults and young children (and infants) with HCM showed increased numbers and thickness of each collagen fiber component of the matrix (perimysial coils, pericellular weaves and struts), which were often arranged in disorganized patterns. In HCM patients, the amount of collagen was not a consequence of other clinical, demographic and morphologic disease variables. CONCLUSIONS: Left ventricular collagen matrix in young, previously asymptomatic patients with HCM who died suddenly is morphologically abnormal and substantially increased in size. The enlarged matrix collagen compartment is present in HCM at an early age, further expands during growth, is partially responsible for increased ventricular septal thickness and likely represents a primary morphologic abnormality in this disease. These findings support the view that the complex HCM disease process is not confined to sarcomere protein abnormalities, but also involves connective tissue elements.

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