Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (AC) is a heart muscle disease characterized by a scarred ventricular myocardium with a distinctive propensity to ventricular arrhythmias (VAs) and sudden cardiac death, especially in young athletes. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) represents the best characterized variant of AC, with a peculiar genetic background, established diagnostic criteria and management guidelines; however, the identification of nongenetic causes of the disease, combined with the common demonstration of biventricular and left-dominant forms, has led to coin the term of “arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy”, to better define the broad spectrum of the disease phenotypic expressions. The genetic basis of AC are pathogenic mutations in genes encoding the cardiac desmosomes, but also non-desmosomal and nongenetic variants were reported in patients with AC, some of which showing overlapping phenotypes with other non-ischemic diseases. The natural history of AC is characterized by VAs and progressive deterioration of cardiac performance. Different phases of the disease are recognized, each characterized by pathological and clinical features. Arrhythmic manifestations are age-related: Ventricular fibrillation and SCD are more frequent in young people, while sustained ventricular tachycardia is more common in the elderly, depending on the different nature of the myocardial lesions. This review aims to address the genetic basis, the clinical course and the phenotypic variants of AC.
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