Pediatric 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
Children's Team

Children's Team

Providers

Janet Scheel

Director, Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program
Our Stories

Our Stories

Teresa's Story

Teresa, 2, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and waited on the Berlin Heart EXCOR® Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) for nine months while she waited for a heart transplant. Her heart arrived on Christmas Day.

Departments

Departments

Children's National Heart Institute

Our expert pediatric heart team, including more than 40 subspecialties, offer advanced heart care and excellent outcomes for thousands of children every year.

Heart Failure and Transplant Program

We provide personalized care for babies and children with heart failure, including advanced VAD techniques and heart transplantation.

Cardiac Imaging

We have expertise in the full spectrum of cardiac imaging, including transesophageal, fetal, 3-D, intracardiac, and stress echocardiography and cardiac MRI.

Cardiology

The pediatric heart experts at Children’s National in Washington, DC, provide advanced care for unborn babies, children and young adults with heart conditions.

Electrophysiology

Our electrophysiologists, national leaders in pediatric arrhythmias, provide advanced treatment for babies and children with complex heart rhythm disorders.

Brayden's Story

"The world of congenital heart defects is scary, but to know that there are people like those at Children's National to help guide you along the way is very comforting."

Read More of Brayden's Story