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Cardiomyopathy in children

Cardiomyopathy occurs when your heart muscle isn’t doing its job to pump blood through the body. This heart disease is characterized by large, stiff or thick heart muscle that can’t pump blood effectively which eventually leads to the deterioration, or breakdown, of the muscle. In the most severe cases, this can lead to heart failure.

Pediatric cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in kids under the age of 18 because it often presents no symptoms. This is why it is important to know your family’s medical history and be aware of anyone who has heart disease.

The different types of cardiomyopathy

While there are many types, there are five main types of this heart disease.

  1. Dilated cardiomyopathy: Most common type and is characterized by the heart muscle being too stretched out or dilated.
  2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This causes the heart muscle to be too thick.
  3. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy: A rare form of cardiomyopathy, this happens when the heart’s right ventricle is replaced with thick tissue.
  4. Restrictive cardiomyopathy: This type of cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to become stiff or rigid.

Each type makes it difficult for your child’s heart to pump blood.

Causes of cardiomyopathy

In most cases, the exact causes of cardiomyopathy in children remains unknown. Some common causes we are aware of include:

  • Genetics: Your child can inherit this from one or both parents
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Diseases in other parts of the body besides the heart
  • Toxins that affect organs
  • Viral infections

Symptoms of cardiomyopathy

It’s important to know that your child might exhibit few to no signs of illness. Often this can be mistaken as a cold or flu. Some children are seriously affected by some of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Swelling of the feet or ankles
  • Swelling of the abdomen, or abdominal pain
  • Chronic fatigue

Testing for pediatric cardiomyopathy

With symptoms of cardiomyopathy being so varied, and with some children having no symptoms at all, there are many tests to help diagnose your child’s condition.

Some of the testings may include:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • EKG
  • Echocardiogram
  • MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization

Cardiomyopathy treatment programs at CHoR

The treatment options that our pediatric cardiologists will explore depends on the exact type of cardiomyopathy and the symptoms your child has.

Schedule an appointment to see how our specialists can help your child.

Cardiomyopathy Q&A with Dr. Kerri Carter

What is different about a heart with cardiomyopathy?

The heart may be stretched out (dilated) or too thick (hypertrophied) but the main problem is ineffective pumping to the body.

What does it feel like to have cardiomyopathy? 

Most children feel nothing, but it may feel like being tired or getting winded with activity.

Should my family have genetic testing done?

For many types of cardiomyopathy, genetic testing can be done to try to identify a gene that may be the underlying cause of the cardiac problem.

How does the disease impact my child’s day-to-day life?

Many children will feel no adverse effects of their cardiomyopathy. Some will have to take daily medication or may not be allowed to participate in competitive sports.