Left Ventricular Non-Compaction

What is Left Ventricular
Non-Compaction (LVNC)?

Left-ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC) is a condition that affects the muscular wall of the left ventricle (bottom part) of the heart. LVNC can occur as an isolated heart condition, or with other heart problems. Sometimes trabeculations can be a normal finding in healthy people and not considered disease. LVNC usually occurs during the development of the heart before a person is born, but can develop after birth.

This page focuses on inherited LVNC, but people with other kinds of LVNC may find this useful.

During development prior to birth, the heart muscle will begin as loosely formed muscle layers. They then begin to bind together tightly to make a thick layer of muscle that is firmly held together. LVNC interrupts this normal development, causing the heart muscle to be spongy and grooved, with “finger-like” structures (trabeculations) projecting into the left ventricle.

These changes impact the heart in two ways:

    • Since the heart muscle is formed differently, the heart muscle is weaker and may not pump blood effectively around the body. 
    • The finger-like structures (trabeculations) may affect the heart’s electrical activity, causing irregular or unusual heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
Family members are at-risk of developing LVNC, so it is important to monitor the heart in these individuals.

Symptoms of LVNC are varied. Some people with LVNC may never experience any symptoms, while others may experience:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnoea)
  • Swelling (oedema) in the feet, legs, or abdomen (belly)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness (presyncope)
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness (syncope)
  • Fluttering / pounding in the chest (palpitations)
  • Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Fatigue (lethargy)

In serious but rare cases, LVNC can lead to heart failure, or sudden cardiac death. There are often no obvious symptoms prior to a sudden death.

LVNC can be diagnosed by a cardiologist (heart doctor), and is usually diagnosed through testing that checks how well your heart is working. Your cardiologist may also repeat these tests as part of your on going management.

Testing may include, but is not limited to:

Our bodies are made up of millions of cells. Each cell contains a copy of our genetic information. Our genetic information is the instructions for our body deciding how we will grow and function. Each instruction is called a gene. We have two copies of all our genes.

We share our genetic information with our families as we receive half our genetic information from each of our parents.

In LVNC, one copy of a gene that is involved in your heart function may contain a genetic change (variant) that stops the heart from working as it should. The genetic variant changes the instructions sent out to the body and may cause your cardiomyopathy.

LVNC is best managed by a team of healthcare professionals. This may include your GP, a cardiologist, a psychologist, and a cardiac genetic counsellor. Each member of your healthcare team plays a different and important role in caring for you, and your family. Management of your cardiomyopathy is very personal, your management plan will likely be different from other members of your family with the same diagnosis. There are a number of factors that go into personalising your management plan. Some of these are: age, current symptoms, how severe your disease is, your family history, and your specific type of cardiomyopathy.