Cardiomyopathy

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is any disease of the heart muscle in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively. In some instances, heart rhythm is disturbed, leading to irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias. There may be multiple causes of cardiomyopathy, including viral infections. Sometimes, the exact cause of the muscle disease is never found.

How does cardiomyopathy differ from other heart disorders?

Cardiomyopathy differs from many of the other disorders of the heart in several ways, including the following:

  • Cardiomyopathy can, and often does, occur in children.
  • The condition is fairly uncommon, affecting only about 50,000 Americans (adults and children).
  • Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause for heart transplantation.
  • The condition tends to be progressive and sometimes worsens fairly quickly.
  • It may be associated with diseases involving other organs, as well as the heart.

Why is cardiomyopathy a concern?

Cardiomyopathy prevents the heart muscle from pumping enough blood to meet the body's needs.

What causes cardiomyopathy?

Viral infections that infect the heart are a major cause of cardiomyopathy. In some instances, cardiomyopathy is a result of another disease or its treatment, such as complex congenital (present at birth) heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, uncontrollable, fast heart rhythms, or certain types of chemotherapy for childhood cancers. Sometimes, cardiomyopathy can be linked to a genetic abnormality. Other times, the cause is unknown.

What is the treatment for cardiomyopathy?

Specific treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Your child's physician may recommend medications to accomplish the following:

  • decrease the workload of the heart
  • decrease the oxygen requirements of the heart
  • regulate irregular heartbeats

Surgical treatment may include:

  • removal of part of the enlarged muscle
  • artificial pacemaker
  • heart transplantation
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Electrophysiology

Learn about our specialized pediatric electrophysiology department for diagnosing and treating arrhythmias in children.

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Children’s National Heart Institute, an international leader in comprehensive cardiac care for infants, children, and adults.

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Learn more about the advanced cardiac imaging procedures we use to diagnose infants and children in our Heart Institute.

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Ian's Story

Ian was born with a heart that was not fully formed, the specialists at Children's National rebuilt his heart to function normally and gave him all the energy he'll ever need.

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