Objectives. The purpose of this study was to assess the incidence of myocardial involvement and the relation of cardiac disease to the molecular defect at the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or protein level in Becker muscular dystrophy. Background. Dystrophin gene mutations produce clinical manifestations of disease in the heart and skeletal muscle of patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. Methods. Thirty-one patients underwent electrocardiographic and echocardiographic examination and 24-h Holter monitoring. The diagnosis was established by neurologic examination, dystrophin immunohistochemical assays or Western blot on muscle biopsy, or both, and DNA analysis. Results. Electrocardiographic and echocardiographic findings were abnormal in 68% and 62% of the patients, respectively. Right ventricular involvement was detected in 52%. Left ventricular impairment was observed either as an isolated phenomenon (10%) or in association with right ventricular dysfunction (29%). Right ventricular disease was manifested in the teenagers, and an impairment of the left ventricle was observed in older patients. Right ventricular end-diastolic volumes were significantly increased compared with those in a control group. The left ventricular ejection fraction was significantly lower in older patients than in control subjects or younger patients. Life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias were detected in four patients. No correlations were found between skeletal muscle disease, cardiac involvement and dystrophin abnormalities. In our patients, exon 49 deletion was invariably associated with cardiac involvement. Exon 48 deletion was associated with cardiac disease in all but two patients. Conclusions. The cardiac manifestation of Becker muscular dystrophy is characterized by early right ventricular involvement associated or not with left ventricular impairment. Exon 49 deletion is associated with cardiac disease.
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