Original articles

Frequency and clinical genetics of familial dilated cardiomyopathy in Cape Town: Implications for the evaluation of patients with unexplained cardiomyopathy

Ntobeko B A Ntusi, Ambroise Wonkam, Gasnat Shaboodien, Motasim Badri, Bongani M Mayosi


Background. Studies from Europe and North America suggest that 20 - 50% of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) may have familial disease. There is little information on the frequency and clinical genetics of familial DCM in Africa.
Purpose. To determine the frequency and probable mode of inheritance of familial DCM in patients referred for investigation of the cause of DCM at a tertiary centre in Cape Town.
Methods. We conducted a retrospective analysis of consecutive patients diagnosed with DCM between 1 February 1996 and 31 December 2009 to determine the frequency of familial disease.
Results. Of 109 unrelated patients with DCM, 29 (26.6%) had familial disease. Their mean age of onset of cardiomyopathy (28.01 (standard deviation (SD) 15.33) years) was significantly younger than that for non-familial cases (39.1 (SD 12.6) years) (p=0.001). Male predominance (N=21, 72.4%) and racial distribution (15 (48.3%) coloured patients, 10 (34.5%) black Africans, 4 (13.8%) white individuals, and 1 (3.4%) of Indian descent) of familial DCM probands were similar to the non-familial cases. Of the 29 patients with familial DCM, 2 (7%) had at least one relative diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy. Pedigree analysis of the 29 families was consistent with autosomal dominant inheritance in 72.4%, autosomal recessive inheritance in 17.2% and X-linked recessive inheritance in 10.4%.
Conclusions. Familial DCM affects at least a quarter of African patients with DCM, presents at a young age, is associated with peripartum cardiomyopathy, and follows an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance in the majority of families. Family screening for familial DCM is indicated in all cases of unexplained DCM, including patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Authors' affiliations

Ntobeko B A Ntusi,

Ambroise Wonkam,

Gasnat Shaboodien,

Motasim Badri,

Bongani M Mayosi, University of Cape Town

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Dilated cardiomyopathy; Clinical genetics

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(6):394-398.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-12-27
Date published: 2011-05-25

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