Cardiomyopathy in Children

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle characterized by an abnormally large, thick, or stiff heart muscle. It may affect only the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles) or both the lower and upper chambers (atria)

Cardiomyopathy causes damage to tissue around the heart, as well as heart muscle cells. In severe cases, the heart becomes so weak that it can’t pump blood properly. This can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). In some cases, cardiomyopathy also involves a buildup of scar tissue or fat within the heart muscle. In rare cases, the heart muscle can’t relax and blood can’t fill the heart properly.

Cardiomyopathy is very often a “time-will-tell” disease. Symptoms can vary and the progression of the disease can be unpredictable.

What are the types of cardiomyopathy?

There are many forms of cardiomyopathy. The main types include:

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is the most common type and occurs when the main pumping chamber of the heart muscle is too stretched out (dilated). Dilated cardiomyopathy makes the heart unable to pump blood effectively.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

HCM makes the heart muscle too thick. Usually, the thickening occurs in the muscle of the left ventricle in the heart, often involving the wall between the heart’s two ventricles.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a rare type of cardiomyopathy that causes the heart muscle to become very rigid or stiff. This makes it difficult for the ventricles of the heart to properly fill with blood.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

ARVC is a rare form of cardiomyopathy that affects only one in 5,000 people. It occurs when the muscle of the heart’s right ventricle is replaced by thick or fatty scar tissue. The scarring “scrambles” electrical signals within the heart and can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

How we care for cardiomyopathy in children

At the Boston Children’s Hospital Cardiomyopathy Program, our cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and nurses, cardiac imaging professionals and other clinicians have years of expertise in treating not only the multiple forms of cardiomyopathy in children, but also the various stages of the disease.