What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle where the heart muscle may be abnormally stretched and large, or thick and stiff. There are several types of cardiomyopathy, some types run in families and some develop after another medical condition. In many cases, there is no clear cause for the condition.


Some children with cardiomyopathy don’t have any symptoms. If a child does have symptoms, they can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • chest pain
  • chronic fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability without a visible cause
  • frequent vomiting
  • pale or clammy skin
  • rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • rapid or “racing” heartbeat
  • slow or delayed growth


The pediatric cardiologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose cardiomyopathy:

  • blood tests
  • chest x-rays
  • electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • echocardiogram
  • cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • a stress test, or exercise test
  • cardiac catheterization and angiography


The type of treatment your child has will depend on his or her specific type of cardiomyopathy and symptoms. Children with a mild condition may only need medication. Those with more severe cardiomyopathy may need surgery or, in severe cases, a heart transplant.

Learn more about Pediatric Cardiology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.


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