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Cardiomyopathy is a very rare form of heart disease, affecting one in every 100,000 children in the United States. If a child has cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle can’t pump blood normally – which can lead to heart failure.
There are several forms of cardiomyopathy:
Although all forms of cardiomyopathy can occur in children, pediatric restrictive cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy are extremely rare, especially in children.
In all forms of cardiomyopathy, abnormal and sometimes lethal heart rhythms can occur.
There are a variety of causes and reasons a child might develop cardiomyopathy such as:
Some cardiomyopathies are familial, which means they may occur in the same family. But often, despite extensive evaluation, an underlying cause of cardiomyopathy cannot be identified.
Because this disease varies from child to child, the signs of cardiomyopathy can be hard to predict. Children with cardiomyopathy may have swelling of the extremities or around the eyes. This happens when body fluids build up because the heart is not pumping hard enough or because the heart is stiff, making it difficult for blood to return from the body or lungs to the heart.
Cardiomyopathy symptoms in infants include heavy breathing and rapidly while feeding, sweating excessively (especially when feeding), having a poor appetite and gaining weight slowly. Older children may become out of breath easily, have decreased exercise endurance, or have abdominal pain or chest pain. Coughing, fainting, easy fatigability, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate or pale appearance may also occur.
In order to treat your child's condition, your pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital Colorado will want to determine the cause, type and extent of your child's cardiomyopathy. There are several tests routinely used in diagnosis and to plan the best course of treatment:
Treatment usually tries to correct the underlying cause of the cardiomyopathy. Treatment could include surgical correction of a heart defect, control of an abnormal heart rhythm, or replacement of nutritional deficiencies.
At the Cardiomyopathy Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, one of our most important goals of treatment is maximizing our patients' quality of life.
Medical therapy varies with the different forms of cardiomyopathies. Patients may need no medication, or they may need several medications to best manage their symptoms and disease depending on the specific type of cardiomyopathy.
If a child is considered to have a high risk for a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm known as arrhythmia, placement of an internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD) may be necessary. In those patients who develop life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, an ICD is the only modality known to prevent sudden cardiac death.
Mechanical circulatory support with artificial heart pumps such as ventricular assist devices (VAD) and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) are utilized in children with severe heart failure as a bridge to transplantation.
Frequent cardiac catheterizations are necessary to monitor the blood pressure in the lungs. For some children, there is no repair or medication that can help the failing heart or rising blood pressure. In these cases, a heart transplant may be an option. A transplant occurs when a failing heart is replaced by a healthy heart from an organ donor. One out of five kids with cardiomyopathy requires a transplant within a year of their diagnosis.
Although doctors have not yet found a cure for pediatric cardiomyopathy, they continue to find new ways to help patients manage this condition.
Learn why our Heart Institute is one of the top pediatric heart transplant centers in the nation.
Check out these websites for more information:
Cardiology - Pediatric, Pediatrics
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