Pediatric Cardiomyopathy

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Pediatric cardiomyopathy can damage the heart’s ability to pump blood in four different ways:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common form, enlarges the heart
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy thickens the heart muscle
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy, the least common form, stiffens heart ventricles
  • Arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia, the most rare form, is due to scar tissue in the heart

Dilated cardiomyopathy, resulting from infections and genetic factors, causes inflammation of your child’s heart muscle, leading to:

  • Leaky mitral valves
  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in children occurs when the heart muscle thickens due to genetic problems. This thickening can cause:

  • The heart to strain as it works harder to pump blood
  • Blockage, if the muscle gets in the way of blood leaving the heart
  • Leaky mitral valves
  • Uneven heart muscle growth
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Symptoms

The weakened blood flow from dilated cardiomyopathy can force the heart to reduce blood flow to skin and muscles, so your child has:

  • Pale or ashen skin color
  • Cool, sweaty skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Chest pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Slow growth

While some children don’t have any symptoms, HCM can cause:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting, particularly during exercise
  • Lightheadedness, exhaustion following exercise
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue 

Babies with HCM may have:

  • Fast, heavy breathing when feeding
  • Sweating when feeding
  • Tiredness or inactivity
  • Poor weight gain

Restrictive cardiomyopathy also causes swelling, and arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia can result in sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.

Diagnosing pediatric cardiomyopathy may require evaluations of your child’s heart with: 

  • Echocardiography
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram
  • Heart catheter
  • Chest X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • Stress test
  • Heart monitor
  • Blood tests

Treating Cardiomyopathy in Children

The pediatric cardiologists at UVA Health Children's use treatments to ease your child’s symptoms and prevent the effects of the cardiomyopathy from getting worse.


Your child may need medicine to:

  • Help maintain proper and regular heart function
  • Remove fluid from the body
  • Manage a heart rhythm problem
  • Prevent blood clots
  • Increase oxygen levels 


Surgery can help if your child has:

  • Severely blocked blood flow from the heart
  • Blockage causing problems with heart valves and other structures
  • A leaking mitral valve that needs to be replaced or repaired 

Surgical solutions include:

  • Removal of the thickened part of the heart muscle, for HCM
  • Implantation of a device to regulate the heartbeat
  • Heart transplant

At UVA Health Children’s, you’ll find the only pediatric heart transplant center in Virginia and expert pediatric cardiac surgeons. Your child will have access to individualized care in a highly specialized but child-focused setting.