Clinics and Departments
Cardiomyopathy Fact Sheet
What is cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle which impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Children with cardiomyopathy usually have a normal heart structure, but have a disease that is either primary (in the heart itself) or secondary (affecting the heart as a result of a toxin or infection in the body).
There are three types of cardiomyopathy:
1. Dilated cardiomyopathy: This is the most common type. It is characterized by an enlargement of the main pumping chamber of the heart and a weakened, thin heart muscle. Dilated cardiomyopathy can cause congestive heart failure (an inability of the heart to pump blood normally), abnormal heart rhythms, electrical disturbances in the heart, and the formation of blood clots.
2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This type of cardiomyopathy causes thickening in the wall separating the chambers of the heart. This thickening can obstruct blood flow, cause a leaky heart valve, and result in irregular heart rhythms. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is also known as idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (IHSS) or asymmetric septal hypertrophy (ASH).
3. Restrictive cardiomyopathy: This is the least common type of cardiomyopathy in children. It is characterized by an inflexible heart muscle that does not allow blood to fill the pumping chambers normally in between heartbeats.
What causes cardiomyopathy?
In many cases, the exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown and the disease cannot be prevented. However, one common cause of cardiomyopathy is myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart that weakens the heart muscle. Some other conditions or factors that may contribute to the development of cardiomyopathy are:
Additionally, if your child has Barth syndrome, an uncommon genetic disorder, it may cause dilated cardiomyopathy—usually in male children and in the first year of life. In these cases, the condition may be associated with skeletal muscle changes, short stature, an increased chance of bacterial infection, and a decrease in the white blood cells that fight illness.
What are the signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy?
The symptoms of cardiomyopathy vary for each child, but may include:
Signs and symptoms tend to progress over time. Symptoms may progress quickly or they may level off for a period of time before progressing further. In some cases, a child with cardiomyopathy may show no symptoms at all in the early stage of the disease.
How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
A clear diagnosis is the first step to treatment. A pediatric cardiologist (a children’s heart doctor) can use several tests to confirm your child’s diagnosis. These tests may include:
How is cardiomyopathy treated?
Once diagnosed, your child’s specific treatment may vary, depending on his or her individual needs and on the type of cardiomyopathy that is diagnosed:
The outlook for children with cardiomyopathy varies greatly from case to case, depending on the cause and severity of your child’s illness and heart condition. Generally speaking, about one third of cardiomyopathy patients have persistently poor heart function, one third have mild to moderate dysfunction and one third make varying degrees of recovery.
About treatment for cardiomyopathy at Children's
Cardiomyopathy is treated through Children’s cardiovascular program one of the largest and oldest pediatric cardiovascular programs in the region. Team members consistently achieve treatment results that are among the best in the nation. Each year, care is provided for thousands of the regionšs sickest children with heart conditions, including fetuses, newborns, infants, children, adolescents, and adult, long-term patients with pediatric cardiovascular conditions.
For more information, please call Children's Heart Clinic at 1-800-938-0301.