Current state of the roles of alcohol septal ablation and surgical myectomy in the treatment of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy

John S. Douglas Jr


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetically determined disorder resulting in left ventricular hypertrophy. In a majority of the estimated 20 million people affected worldwide, left ventricular outflow obstruction is present at rest or with provocation. The presence and degree of obstruction influence the symptomatic presentation, treatment strategies and prognosis of affected individuals. Pharmacologic therapy with beta-adrenergic blocking drugs and calcium channel blockers is the principal treatment strategy in symptomatic patients with left ventricular outflow obstruction but is ineffective in many patients. When symptoms of exertional shortness of breath, chest pain and/or syncope prove refractory to medical therapy and there is persisting left ventricular outflow obstruction, or when there is drug intolerance, septal reduction strategies (surgical myectomy and alcohol septal ablation) are quite effective. Selection of the optimal septal reduction strategy for a given patient has become controversial and is determined largely by the medical system providing treatment strategies for the patient. Regretably, there are no randomized trials comparing myectomy and ablation and none are anticipated. The comprehensive Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Guideline Statements published in 2011 and 2014 differ significantly with the earlier statement favoring surgical myectomy and the more recent statement giving equal class I status to the two septal reduction strategies in adult patients with drug-refractory symptoms. Recently published studies of long-term follow-up of patients after alcohol septal ablation in Europe, where surgical myectomy is rarely performed, confirm long-term safety and effectiveness with survival free of cardiac events exceeding 96% at 15 years. The lesser degree of discomfort and more rapid recovery associated with the minimally invasive catheter-based alcohol ablation procedure coupled with the recently published long-term safety data favor an increased use of this strategy in symptomatic adult patients with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM).