Testing & diagnosis for cardiomyopathy in children

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Contact the Cardiomyopathy Program

How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

The process of arriving at a cardiomyopathy diagnosis usually involves several steps. Your clinician will:

  • obtain a thorough medical history by speaking with you, your child (if he is old enough) and your child’s referring physician, and reviewing all relevant lab work and reports
  • give your child a comprehensive physical exam
  • listen to your child’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope
  • order specific tests

What tests will be necessary?

Your clinician may use one or more of the following tests to reach (or rule out) a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy: 

  • blood tests, including tests to measure:
    • B-type natiuretic peptide (BNP), a protein produced in the heart. BNP levels rise when the heart undergoes stress that may cause heart failure.
    • iron levels, which, when elevated, may cause weakening of the heart
    • kidney function
    • thyroid function
  • chest x-rays, which make it possible to view the structure of the heart and detect any enlargement
  • electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which measures electrical activity within your child’s heart
  • echocardiography, which uses ultrasound to assess you child’s heart structures and function
  • cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses a large magnet, radio waves and computer to evaluate the structure and function of your child’s heart and blood vessels
  • stress echocardiography, which uses ultrasound and heart rate monitoring to assess your child’s heart function just before and just after exercise, or during the administration of a drug that mimics the effects of exercise on the heart
  • a stress test, or exercise test, which measures your child’s capacity for physical exertion
  • cardiac catheterization, which uses a small, flexible tube inserted into a vein or artery to provide a detailed view of the heart’s internal structures and accurate measurement of the pressure inside of the heart chambers and vessels.
  • coronary angiography, which uses minimally invasive imaging technology to map the veins or arteries in your child’s heart  
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