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ATTR-CM (cardiomyopathy) vs ATTR-PN (peripheral neuropathy)

 

Over the course of the past few months, we spent time discussing two of the most common hallmark symptoms of ATTR amyloidosis: cardiomyopathy and peripheral neuropathy. In this article, we’ll briefly recap both hallmark symptoms as well as bring it all together by discussing the two most common forms of ATTR amyloidosis: ATTR cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM) and ATTR peripheral neuropathy (ATTR-PN).

To recap …

 

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a broad term that is used to describe disease of the heart muscle, making it difficult for the heart to provide the body with an adequate blood supply. It is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death, which can lead to heart failure and even death. 

Types of Cardiomyopathy:

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy → dilation of the left ventricle prevents the heart from pumping effectively
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy → abnormal thickening of the heart muscle most commonly surrounding the left ventricle
  • Restrictive Cardiomyopathy → stiffening of the heart muscle results in an inelasticity
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia → scar tissue replaces healthy tissue of the right ventricle
  • Unclassified Cardiomyopathy → all other forms of cardiomyopathy fall within this category

 

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, also referred to as polyneuropathy, is a very broad term used to describe damage of the peripheral nerves. Damage to these nerves most commonly causes numbness, pain, and weakness but can affect other areas of the body including, but not limited to, circulation, digestion, and urination. 

Types of Neuropathy:

  • Motor Neuropathy → damage to the motor nerves 
  • Sensory Neuropathy → damage to sensory nerves 
  • Autonomic Nerve Neuropathy → damage to autonomic nerves that control involuntary functions 
  • Combination Neuropathies → damage to a mix of 2 or 3 of these other types of neuropathies

 

ATTR Amyloidosis

The origin of this disease can be genetic (hATTR) or non-genetic, or “wild-type” (ATTRwt). Regardless, in ATTR amyloidosis, the transthyretin (TTR) protein is misfolded and aggregates, forming amyloid fibers that deposit into tissues and organs. The deposition of protein causes organ dysfunction and can even cause organ failure and death. 

 

ATTR-CM and ATTR-PN

Depending on the location of protein deposition, the disease is referred to in different ways. For instance, when the primary location of amyloid deposit is in the heart, the disease is referred to as ATTR cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM). On the other hand, when the primary location of amyloid deposit is in the nerves, the disease is referred to as ATTR peripheral neuropathy (ATTR-PN).

ATTR-CM impairs the heart’s ability to pump effectively. A major challenge surrounding this disease is that symptoms of ATTR-CM are often similar to other heart conditions like enlarged heart and heart failure. This makes diagnosing the disease increasingly more difficult. Individuals with hATTR typically present symptoms in their 50s and 60s, whereas those with ATTRwt may not present symptoms until their 70s and later. 

Common Symptoms of ATTR-CM:

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of legs, ankle, or abdomen
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Arrhythmia

ATTR-PN impairs the function of the nervous system. While amyloid most commonly builds up in the peripheral nervous system, deposition can also occur in the autonomous system. This results in a diversity of symptoms that are specific to the site of amyloid deposition. Symptom presentation is much more diverse, occurring as early as the 20s, or as late in life as the 70s. 

Common Symptoms of ATTR-PN:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Muscle weakness
  • Eye problems
  • Orthostatic hypotension

Expert Insights – Cardiac Clues and Clinical Signs

In part 1 of a 2-part series, Dr. Keyur Shah, cardiologist from VCU Health’s cardiac amyloidosis care team, discusses the two most common types of transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis: hereditary and wild-type. He details how ATTR cardiomyopathy amyloidosis presents and manifests itself to impair the heart. Dr. Shah lists clinical clues, “red flags,” and biomarkers which can raise suspicion of the presence of amyloidosis. Next, he discusses insights that can be gained from echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, and cardiac MRIs and how they offer possible indicators of the disease presence. Once amyloidosis is suspected, definitive diagnosis testing is next.

 

In part 2 of a 2-part series, Sarah Paciulli, Heart Failure Nurse Practitioner, from VCU Health’s cardiac amyloidosis care team, continues from where Dr. Keyur Shah ended in Part I and discusses here in Part II the non-cardiac clues of transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis. She expands the list of clinical clues and “red flags” that clinicians should be alert to, including orthopedic manifestations, erectile dysfunction, and polyneuropathy.

 

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References:

https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/understanding_this_rare_disease_called_attr_amyloidosis

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cardiomyopathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370709

https://www.yourheartsmessage.com

https://healthjade.net/familial-amyloidosis/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14737-neuropathy

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/peripheral-neuropathy

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061

https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2021-july-aug/neuromuscular-amyloidosis

https://healthjade.net/familial-amyloidosis/



Diagnosing Amyloidosis: From Cardiology to Neurology – When to Think About Amyloidosis

Dr. J. Mark Sloan, Associate Professor of Medicine, Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. He is a member of the BU Amyloidosis Center, the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research at BU, and the program director for the hematology/oncology fellowship at Boston University. In this video, developed exclusively for the Amyloidosis Speakers Bureau, he provides a comprehensive clinical overview of diagnosing amyloidosis, from cardiology to neurology, and when to think about amyloidosis.

Peripheral Neuropathy & Amyloidosis

Neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, is a broad term that is used to describe damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy that can be classified into four categories, with each type having their own symptoms and prognosis. In this article, we’ll discuss the types of peripheral neuropathy and its connection to amyloidosis.

 

Symptoms

One of the challenges with neuropathy is the fact that symptoms can vary significantly based on what nerve is damaged. Additionally, symptoms can develop over the course of months to years (chronic neuropathy) or come on suddenly (acute neuropathy). Some of the most commonly seen symptoms are listed below:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of muscle and bone
  • Changes in skin, hair, or nails
  • Numbness
  • Loss of sensation or feeling in body parts
  • Loss of balance or other functions as a side effect of the loss of feeling in the legs, arms, or other body parts
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Loss of pain or sensation that can put you at risk, such as not feeling an impending heart attack or limb pain
  • Inability to sweat properly, leading to heat intolerance
  • Loss of bladder control, leading to infection or incontinence
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting because of a loss of control over blood pressure
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or incontinence related to nerve damage in the intestines or digestive tract
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or irregular heartbeat

 

Types of Neuropathy

  1. Motor Neuropathy → Damage to the motor nerves control how you move.
  2. Sensory Neuropathy → Damage to sensory nerves control what you feel.
  3. Autonomic Nerve Neuropathy → Damage to autonomic nerves that control functions that are involuntary (ie. you do not consciously control).
  4. Combination Neuropathies → Damage to a mix of 2 or 3 of these other types of neuropathies. For example, damage to both sensory and motor nerves would result in sensory-motor neuropathy.

 

Amyloidosis

Peripheral Neuropathy is one of the hallmarks of amyloidosis, often seen in the transthyretin form of amyloidosis (ATTR). ATTR-PN, or transthyretin amyloid polyneuropathy, is a disease where the transthyretin protein becomes unstable and misfolds. This unstable protein (“amyloid”) then deposits in the nerve tissue, resulting in damage to these nerves. While amyloid deposits primarily in the peripheral nerves, it is not uncommon for amyloid deposition in the autonomic nerves as well. 

While peripheral neuropathy is most commonly associated with ATTR amyloidosis, it should be noted that peripheral neuropathy is also seen in 15-35% of patients with AL amyloidosis.

Most importantly, these are the most common and important signs and symptoms to be aware of, in order to diagnose ATTR amyloidosis.

 

Neurological Complications of ATTR Amyloidosis

Patients with ATTR amyloidosis are commonly faced with neurological complications. In this presentation, Dr. Chafic Karam from the University of Pennsylvania goes through four areas: an overview of the neurological systems, how amyloid damages the nerves, neurological signs of ATTR amyloidosis, and how to detect amyloid and diagnose ATTR amyloid neuropathy.

 

 

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References:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14737-neuropathy

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/peripheral-neuropathy

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061

https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2021-july-aug/neuromuscular-amyloidosis

https://healthjade.net/familial-amyloidosis/

 

Patient Insights: Discussing a hereditary disease with relatives

With a hereditary disease, talking with relatives can be challenging. Hear Greg share ways that he has advanced discussions. Our patient speakers at the Amyloidosis Speakers Bureau are powerful educators and offer compelling insights. Have a listen to this brief clip from Greg.

Expert Insights: The Future for Patients with Transthyretin Cardiac Amyloidosis is Looking Brighter

The treatment for patients with Transthyretin Cardiac Amyloidosis has advanced significantly since 2018 when there were no FDA-approved therapies. In this presentation, Dr. Mat Maurer from Columbia University shares how diagnostic imaging techniques have significantly improved, thereby reducing the need for an invasive heart biopsy. In addition, he shares fascinating statistics on how the age and stage of diagnosis has been evolving. Based on today’s clinical trials, providers are optimistic that the expansion of options for patient care will continue.

The future is indeed looking brighter.

Diagnosing Amyloidosis: A Two-Step Process

Amyloidosis can present in many types with the three most prevalent being light chain (AL) amyloidosis, hereditary variant transthyretin (ATTRv) amyloidosis, and wild type transthyretin (ATTRwt) amyloidosis. Being a rare disease, diagnosis can be particularly challenging, given that the general medical community is not well educated on the malady and symptoms are often associated with other more common ailments.

Successfully diagnosing the disease requires a two-step process before an appropriate treatment program can be determined and implemented for each patient.

  1. First, if amyloidosis is suspected, testing must be done to confirm the presence of amyloid.
  2. Second, once the presence of amyloid is confirmed, testing must then be done to identify and confirm the type of amyloidosis.

It is crucial that the second step, where the correct type of amyloidosis is identified, as the treatment regime can be different for each type. Here we share two different patient experiences which illustrate successful execution of the two-step diagnostic process.

Patient Case #1

The first case involved a 23-year old female. In 2017 she experienced an episode of coughing up blood, after which she looked in her throat with a flashlight and discovered a sizable lump. The patient met with a local ENT, who incorrectly diagnosed allergies, and prescribed over-the-counter medicine. With no improvement, she met with a second ENT. Testing was performed on the patient’s left oral pharynx utilizing a Congo red staining biopsy process which confirmed the presence of amyloid in the tissue. Additionally, mass spectrometry was performed which successfully differentiated the type of amyloidosis as being ALH (lambda light chain and delta heavy chain). Subsequently, she was referred to a hematologist who ordered a bone marrow biopsy and blood testing. The bone marrow biopsy summary notes read “….in conjunction with the concurrent finding of monoclonal lambda light chain restricted plasma cells in the marrow by flow cytometry, the findings are consistent with involvement of the marrow by a plasma cell neoplasm.”

Additionally, the blood testing confirmed elevated light chains as shown below.

Patient Case #2

The second case involved a man in his mid-fifties. He began experiencing disease symptoms approximately 6-7 years prior to being diagnosed in early 2019. He initially experienced gradually progressing numbness in his feet, legs, hands and forearms, as well as bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Soon after, he began experiencing symptoms of lightheadedness and fainting. Additionally, he started experiencing progressive gastro-intestinal issues such as acid reflux, chronic coughing, and frequent bouts of constipation and diarrhea. By 2018, his physical condition was rapidly deteriorating, including a total weight loss of approximately 80 pounds. During this extended period of time he was seen by a variety of physicians including internal medicine, neurology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, oncology, and cardiology, none of who were successful in arriving at a conclusive diagnosis. His list of maladies included cardiomyopathy, peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and gastroparesis, all which are classic symptoms of amyloidosis.

Finally, in early 2019 his condition was successfully diagnosed by an amyloidosis specialist. An echocardiogram was performed as well as a cardiac MRI (utilizing a gadolinium tracer) to identify amyloid fibrils and related damage in the heart tissue. These tests confirmed the presence of amyloid. A free light chain serum test was performed which ruled out AL amyloidosis, and Transthyretin DNA sequencing was performed to differentiate between the hereditary variant and wild-type of ATTR, which identified the T80A (legacy T60A) variant of transthyretin (ATTRv) amyloidosis. The two tests were successful in identifying the type of amyloidosis. The associated testing results are show below.

Echocardiogram Summary Notes

Associated Cardiac MRI Interpretation

DNA Sequencing Result

 

Once Diagnosed, Next is a Treatment Plan

Once the presence of amyloid is confirmed, and the type is identified, then it is time to treat the disease. In each of these patient cases the disease was diagnosed utilizing the two-step process to identify and confirm the type of amyloidosis. In both cases, successful treatment regimens were implemented which were effective in putting the disease into remission and/or halting disease progression.

Treatment options for amyloidosis have been vastly improved over the past several years. What was previously considered to be a foregone fatal disease can now be a manageable chronic disease. To ensure the best patient outcome, a timely diagnosis utilizing the two-step process, is essential.

 

Patient Insights: Impact on a Family

Our patient speakers at the Amyloidosis Speakers Bureau are powerful educators and offer compelling insights.

Have a listen to this brief clip from Darlene with thoughts on how this disease has impacted her family.

Expert Insights: Unraveling the Lineage: The Genetic Basis of Familial ATTR Cardiomyopathy

Dr. Witteles, a cardiologist and co-director of the Stanford Amyloid Center, discusses genetic testing, sequencing the TTR gene, and clarifies the confusing mutation nomenclature. He details the most common of the more than 145 known hereditary mutations, the prevalence of cardiomyopathy versus neuropathy, and references studies around diagnostic factors.

Expert Insights: Neurological Complications of ATTR Amyloidosis

Patients with ATTR amyloidosis are commonly faced with neurological complications. In this presentation, Dr. Chafic Karam from the University of Pennsylvania goes through four areas: an overview of the neurological systems, how amyloid damages the nerves, neurological signs of ATTR amyloidosis, and how to detect amyloid and diagnose ATTR amyloid neuropathy.

 

A Patient Guide for Understanding Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is a multi-system disease, making diagnosis challenging. In this informative patient guide, the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) discusses common symptoms, types of amyloidosis, red flags to be aware of, diagnostic tests and available treatment options. 

CLICK HERE to read/download ASNC’s Guide for Understanding Amyloidosis

 

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