Pediatric myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle in an infant or young child.
Myocarditis is rare in young children. It is slightly more common in older children and adults. It is often worse in newborns and young infants than in children over age 2.
Most cases in children are caused by a virus that reaches the heart. These can include the influenza (flu) virus, Coxsackie virus, parovirus, and adenovirus. It may also be caused by bacterial infections such as Lyme disease.
Other causes of pediatric myocarditis include:
The heart muscle may be directly damaged by the virus or the bacteria that infect it. The body's immune response can also damage the heart muscle (called the myocardium) in the process of fighting the infection. This can lead to symptoms of heart failure.
Symptoms may be mild at first and hard to detect. However, in newborns and infants, symptoms may sometimes appear suddenly. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms in children over age 2 may also include:
Pediatric myocarditis can be hard to diagnose because the signs and symptoms often mimic those of other heart and lung diseases, or a bad case of the flu.
The health care provider may hear a rapid heartbeat or abnormal heart sounds while listening to the child's chest with a stethoscope. A physical exam may detect fluid in the lungs and swelling in the legs in older children.
There may be signs of infection, including fever and rashes.
A chest x-ray can show enlargement (swelling) of the heart. If the provider suspects myocarditis based on the exam and chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram may also be done to help make the diagnosis.
Other tests that may be needed include:
There is no cure for myocarditis. The heart muscle inflammation will often go away on its own.
The goal of treatment is to support heart function until the inflammation goes away. Many children with this condition are admitted to a hospital. Activity often needs to be limited while the heart is inflamed because it can strain the heart.
Treatment may include:
Recovery from myocarditis depends on the cause of the problem and the child's overall health. Most children recover completely with proper treatment. However, some may have permanent heart disease.
Newborns have the highest risk for serious disease and complications (including death) due to myocarditis. In rare cases, severe damage to the heart muscle requires a heart transplant.
Complications may include:
Call your child's pediatrician if signs or symptoms of this condition occur.
There is no known prevention. However, prompt testing and treatment may reduce the disease risk.
Park MK. Cardiovascular infections. In: Park MK, ed. Park's Pediatric Cardiology for Practitioners. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 19.
Spicer RL, Ware SM. Diseases of the myocardium. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 439.
Last reviewed on: 2/15/2016
Reviewed by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.