The NewYork-Presbyterian Congenital Heart Center Program for Pediatric Cardiomyopathy, Heart Failure, and Transplantation brings together a wide range of pediatric heart specialists to care for children with complex congenital heart disease and severe heart disorders such as cardiomyopathy and other causes of advanced heart failure. A combined program of the pediatric centers of NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, your child is in the expert hands of a team renowned for excellence in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery and committed to providing our patients with the safest, most advanced techniques available to extend survival and improve quality of life.
What is cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which there is an abnormality of the heart muscle. As a result, the muscle may become weak, thick, thin, or stiff. The disease affects the lower pumping chambers (ventricles) of the heart, and may cause the heart to fail to pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs.
Cardiomyopathy has many possible causes. There may be no known cause (idiopathic cardiomyopathy). The disease can have a genetic cause, meaning that a gene mutation is passed down through families. It can also result from infection (myocarditis) or a more generalized disease (such as metabolic syndrome, muscular dystrophy or collagen vascular disease). Finally, toxic agents such as chemotherapy drugs can be another identifiable cause of cardiomyopathy in children and adolescents. Cardiomyopathy can be diagnosed at any point throughout infancy, childhood and adolescence, and may even be diagnosed prenatally.
Several different types of cardiomyopathy exist, and the specific symptoms of each type vary from person to person. In some affected individuals, no symptoms may be present (asymptomatic). However, in many people, cardiomyopathy is a progressive condition that may impair the heart’s ability to pump blood. Other symptoms include fatigue, irregular or rapid heartbeats (tachycardia), and, potentially, heart failure, which can lead to death.
The four types of cardiomyopathy are:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy - the most common cause of heart failure in children in which the heart’s left ventricle is enlarged and weakened.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - abnormal thickening of the heart's left ventricle or the wall between the two ventricles in which patients may be prone to serious arrhythmias, sudden death and/or diminished heart function.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy - a rare condition in which the heart muscle becomes stiff and cannot fully expand to allow enough blood to enter its lower chambers. Although rare, it often can lead to end-stage heart failure symptoms requiring transplantation.
- Non-compaction cardiomyopathy - a form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle is abnormally formed; the heart can become stretched, as in dilated cardiomyopathy, or stiff, as in restrictive cardiomyopathy, or thickened as in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Some children exhibit symptoms of cardiomyopathy at birth. Other children have no symptoms until they are older. Symptoms of cardiomyopathy in newborns include:
- Fast breathing or difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty feeding
- Excessive sweating
- Poor weight gain
- Irritability or unresponsiveness
- Unusual skin color
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy in older children include:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Shortness of breath when exercising or decreased exercise tolerance
- Stomach problems: recurrent vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, inability to eat
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Unusual fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Bloating, or distended belly
- Unusual skin color