Post-mortem suggests George Michael had heart condition

7 March 2017        

Category: Research

George Michael singing

A coroner’s report has concluded that a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy and heart inflammation known as myocarditis contributed to the death of George Michael.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

We estimate that 1 in 250 people are affected by dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The condition causes the heart muscle to become enlarged, stretched and thin, and can reduce its ability to pump blood around the body – causing heart failure.

DCM can be inherited, but it can also be caused by environmental factors such as viral infections, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and excessive alcohol consumption.

At present there is no cure for DCM, but treatments are available to help control symptoms and prevent complications. Find out more about the DCM, the signs and symptoms, and treatments available.

Inflammation of the heart

Myocarditis occurs when the heart muscle becomes inflamed and is often caused as a result of infection by common viruses. Myocarditis is often mild and can go unnoticed. However, around 20 per cent of people with myocarditis go on to develop heart failure, which in extreme cases can result in the person needing a heart transplant.

In severe cases, myocarditis can cause cardiac arrest and sudden death.

BHF Professor Federica Marelli-Berg is studying the role that the immune system plays in myocarditis. Read more about her research here.

Our research

Recently, researchers funded by the BHF identified a faulty gene which could predispose people to DCM in the presence of an additional stress on the heart. The researchers suggested that additional stresses, such as alcohol abuse, a viral infection of the heart, or high blood pressure could trigger DCM in people who have the faulty gene.

Read more about the study here.

Research is now underway to find out which genetic factors or environmental triggers may put people with the mutations at risk of developing DCM.