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Cardiomyopathies are little known to internists and general practitioners (GPs), and not always able to arouse the interest of cardiologists. Probably, this happens because cardiomyopathies are perceived as rare and complex disorders, a prerogative of a few dedicated centers. This may partly explain why the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy is often missed and, consequently, why cardiomyopathies are largely underdiagnosed. Internists and general practitioners should have an interest in these conditions, because cardiomyopathies are not as rare as generally perceived, and because their complexity can be unravelled with knowledge and methodology. Cardiomyopathies are defined as myocardial disorders in which the heart is structurally and functionally abnormal in the absence of coronary artery disease or abnormal loading conditions. Irrespective of the cardiac imaging technique used, a limited number of phenotypes are defined based on ventricular morphology and function. These basic phenotypes include hypertrophic, dilated, restrictive and right ventricular arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies. Aim of this review is to describe a simplified approach to the detection of the underlying causes of specific phenotypes. We will focus our attention on the basic phenotypes, presenting a diagnostic work-up and a suggestive clinical case for each phenotype.
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