Scripps Clinic Named First Center of Excellence in San Diego County for Treating Prevalent Heart Disease

Heart wall thickening is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes

Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, cardiology, Scripps Clinic

Jorge Gonzalez, MD, co-director of the Scripps Clinic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Program.

Heart wall thickening is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes

Scripps Clinic has been designated a Center of Excellence by the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association, becoming the first location in San Diego County to be recognized for outstanding treatment of this common genetic disease, which involves an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle.

“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also known as HCM, can be a challenging disease, requiring care from a wide range of clinical specialists covering general cardiology, cardiac imaging, electrophysiology, heart failure and genetics,” said Jorge A. Gonzalez, MD, director of advanced cardiovascular imaging and co-director of the Scripps Clinic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Program at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. “Our program brings together experts in all of these fields who apply the latest diagnostics and treatments to patients who require long-term, follow-up care for this progressive condition.”

HCM, which often goes undetected for decades, is the second most common form of heart muscle disease, affecting up to 1 million people in the United States and 1 in 300 in the general population. HCM often is inherited within families, and several gene mutations have been linked to the disease.

In HCM, the walls of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) become enlarged, restricting blood flow and sometimes causing leakage from the mitral valve and interruption of the heart’s electrical system. Symptoms can vary widely from chest pains, dizziness and irregular heart rhythms to more serious life-threatening conditions such as heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest.

The disease can affect children and adults of any age. In fact, HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young competitive athletes, accounting for 36 percent of all cases, according to a study published by the journal Circulation in 2009. 

Diagnosis can involve an echocardiogram (ultrasound imaging), an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood tests. Treatments include beta-blocking drugs or other medications that slow the heartbeat, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and surgery to remove heart muscle tissue blocking blood flow.

Multidisciplinary team approach

“This prestigious designation as a Center of Excellence recognizes our commitment to provide a multidisciplinary approach to our patients that produces a continuum of care leading to the best possible outcomes for our patients,” said Ajay Srivastava, MD, a heart failure specialist and the program’s other co-director.

Other clinical members of the Scripps HCM team include:

“The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association is pleased to welcome Scripps Clinic to our family of Center of Excellence programs,” said Lisa Salberg, founder and CEO of the nonprofit group, which is the largest organization serving those with HCM, their families and care providers. “Patients and families benefit by having a team of highly skilled clinicians as well as the emotional support they need to manage living with a genetic heart condition that may impact many other members of the family as well.”

For more information about the Scripps Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Program, call 858-824-2018 or visit


The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association, HCMA, was founded in 1996 as an international resource for patients, families and the medical community on matters of importance to the HCM community. HCM is a genetic heart muscle disorder affection 1 in 300 people worldwide. The HCMA provides service to enhance understanding, provide support, foster research, ensure high quality health care and support public policies of importance to the community. The HCMA is a 501c(3)with offices in Denville, N.J., and online at For more information contact us at 973-983-7429.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Keith Darce

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