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 and leads to arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). There may be multiple causes of cardiomyopathy, including viral infections. Often, the exact cause of the muscle disease is never found.
Cardiomyopathy differs from many of the other disorders of the heart in several ways, including the following:
Cardiomyopathy can, and often does, occur in the young.
The condition affects about 50,000 Americans (adults and children).
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.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a leading cause for heart transplantation.
Cardiomyopathy prevents the heart muscle from pumping enough blood to meet the body's needs.
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 cancer. Sometimes, cardiomyopathy can be linked to a genetic abnormality. Other times, the cause is unknown. Three types of cardiomyopathy affect both adults and children.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common form of cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle is enlarged and stretched (dilated), causing the heart to become weak and pump inefficiently. Other problems that may occur with dilated cardiomyopathy include the following:
irregular heart rhythms
risk of blood clots
congestive heart failure
the dilated left ventricle can affect the leaflets of the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and the left ventricle. The valve leaflets become leaky, resulting in mitral regurgitation (or mitral insufficiency) whereby the blood moves backward from the left ventricle to the left atrium, rather than moving forward to the body.
Various infections (including viral) which lead to an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) can cause this type of cardiomyopathy.
Contact with toxins or very powerful therapeutic drugs, such as certain types of chemotherapy given to fight cancer, have been known to cause dilated cardiomyopathy. Heredity can also be a factor. Twenty percent of people with dilated cardiomyopathy have a parent or sibling with the disease. In many cases, a specific cause for this type of the disease is never identified.
Because the heart muscle is weak and unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's demands, the body tries to preserve blood flow to essential organs such as the brain and kidneys by reducing blood flow to other areas of the body, such as the skin and muscles.
The following are the most common symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
pale or ashen skin color
cool, sweaty skin
rapid heart rate
rapid breathing rate
shortness of breath
Specific treatment for dilated 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:
help the heart beat more effectively
decrease the workload of the heart
decrease the oxygen requirements of the heart
prevent clots from forming
decrease inflammation of the heart
regulate irregular heartbeats
In some cases, dilated cardiomyopathy due to viral causes improves. In other cases, the condition worsens and transplantation of the heart may be considered. Consult your child's physician for more information regarding the specific outlook for your child.
In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the muscle mass of the left ventricle of the heart is thicker than normal, or the wall between the two ventricles (septum) becomes enlarged. These abnormalities obstruct the blood flow from the left ventricle.
The thickened muscle or septal wall can also affect one of the leaflets of the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and the left ventricle. The valve leaflet becomes leaky, allowing blood to move backwards from the left ventricle into the left atrium, instead of forward to the body.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often hereditary. One-half of children with the disease have a parent or sibling with varying degrees of left ventricular muscle or ventricular wall enlargement, although relatives may or may not have symptoms.
Children with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may have symptoms that increase with exertion or symptoms may be unpredictable.
The following are the most common symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
shortness of breath on exertion
abnormal heart rhythms
Specific treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Surgical treatment may include:
removal of part of the enlarged muscle
implantation of an artificial pacemaker or an artificial defibrillator
Consult your child's physician for more information regarding the specific outlook for your child.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy, the least common type of cardiomyopathy in the US, occurs when the myocardium of the ventricles becomes excessively rigid, and the filling of the ventricles with blood between heart beats is impaired. This condition occurs rarely in children.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy usually results from another disease, which occurs elsewhere in the body. However, there are idiopathic (cause unknown) occurrences as well. Restrictive cardiomyopathy does not appear to be inherited, but some of the diseases that lead to the condition are genetically transmitted.
Conditions that may be associated with the development of restrictive cardiomyopathy include, but are not limited to, the following:
scleroderma (a chronic, degenerative disease that affects the joints, skin, and internal organs)
amyloidosis (a rare disease which causes the buildup of amyloid, a protein and starch, in tissues and organs)
sarcoidosis (a rare inflammation of the lymph nodes and other tissues throughout the body)
mucopolysaccharidosis (a condition in which mucopolysaccharides, or carbohydrates that bond with water to form a thick, jelly-like substance, accumulate in body organs)
Radiation therapy for cancer treatment has also been associated with restrictive cardiomyopathy.
The following are the most common symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
swelling of the extremities
Specific treatment for restrictive cardiomyopathy will be determined by your child's physician based on:
prevent blood clots from forming
artificial pacemaker or defibrillator insertion