Pediatric Cardiomyopathies

When, as a parent or a patient you receive unsettling news about a heart condition, you naturally become worried. Our specialists at Children’s Heart Center, an accredited center of care for children with cardiomyopathy, are here to help.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. We provide the most important first step toward treatment: an accurate diagnosis.

An expert diagnosis is especially important in cases of cardiomyopathy. Pediatric cardiomyopathies have symptoms such as shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and vomiting.  These are also symptoms of more common pediatric diseases, such as asthma or gastroenteritis, and may lead to a missed or delayed diagnosis.

Cardiomyopathy can range from mild to severe cases, and it may be present at birth or acquired following an infection or chemotherapy treatment. Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms, and to see a pediatric cardiologist who specializes in cardiomyopathy when it is suspected.

About Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy weakens the heart muscle so it is unable to function properly. There are many types of cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle may become enlarged, thick, or stiff. Cardiomyopathy makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood well.

If untreated, your child may not be able to enjoy playing, running, and other daily activities. However, with treatment, your child may be able to participate in regular activities. It is important that we continue to treat and monitor your child’s health. In some cases, cardiomyopathy may worsen over time, and we may need to adjust treatment. If your child’s condition cannot be treated medically, we may recommend listing for heart transplant as the best form of treatment.

Symptoms

Cardiomyopathy may have no symptoms, subtle symptoms, or symptoms that mask the true cause. Symptoms vary based on your child’s age from infant to adult. For example:

  • Unborn child—poor heart function and fluid collection around the heart, in the chest or the abdomen
  • Child during first year of life—may seem weak and have feeding issues with poor growth, sweating during feeding, fast breathing
  • Older child—doesn’t feel well overall, needs to rest during play, vomiting, and stomach and chest pain
  • Teenager and adult—complains of being tired trying to do daily activities, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath

Diagnosis

Cardiomyopathy can be diagnosed at any age.

During pregnancy, we can diagnose cardiomyopathy using a fetal echocardiogram. If we discover a potential problem, we will monitor the mother and the unborn child. If necessary, we prepare to treat your baby at birth through our Fetal Heart Program.

To diagnose children of all ages, we may do all or a selection of the following:

  • Physical exam—checks the pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and number of breaths your child takes a minute. With a stethoscope, the doctor listens to how the heart sounds. We also examine the rest of your child’s body for signs of cardiomyopathies.
  • Chest X-ray—shows the size of the heart and checks the lungs for fluid.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)—checks the electrical activity and rhythm of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram—a safe, noninvasive procedure that uses high frequency ultrasound. It shows the structure of your child’s pumping chambers. We can measure how blood flows through the heart. And, it gives an overall view into how your child’s heart and circulatory system are working.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—imaging method that uses safe, powerful magnets and radio waves. An MRI creates pictures of your child’s heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization—while your child is under anesthesia, we perform this procedure. It accurately measures the pressure of the heart’s chambers. It also shows how much blood is being pumped to evaluate how severe your child’s cardiomyopathy is.

Cardiomyopathy may be genetic in origin, so we also offer genetic testing.

How We Treat Cardiomyopathy

We base your child’s treatment on individual factors: your child’s age, severity of the condition, and your child’s unique wishes and needs. We always discuss your child’s treatment with you. Mild cases of cardiomyopathy may not ever require advanced treatment. However, ongoing care is essential for your child.

Treatment options may include medications and implantable devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. We also may stabilize your child’s heart with a cardiac assist device. This functions as a mechanical heart. However, if the cardiomyopathy becomes severe, we may recommend a heart transplant. Our doctors and nurses will support your child though every stage of the process from waiting time through the transplant operation. We provide your child immediate as well as long-term post-transplant care.

Our Alliance with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

At Children’s Heart Center—an alliance between Mount Sinai and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)—we have the experience to diagnose cardiomyopathy at all ages. For complex cases, we call on the resources and expertise of our colleagues at CHOP, one of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Why Choose Children’s Heart Center?

Children’s Heart Center has been named an accredited center of care by the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF), a national nonprofit committed to improving the health outcomes and quality of life for children with cardiomyopathy. We received this recognition for consistently providing high-quality cardiac care and specialized disease management to children with cardiomyopathy.

Our specialists follow your child to make sure we are always providing the most advanced therapies. Our pediatric cardiology team is one of the most experienced in the region with implantation of all types of temporary and long-term devices in children. We offer your child the finest diagnostic technologies, medication, and follow up care. We determine the best medical treatment and develop a unique treatment regime for your child.

Throughout your child’s care, we maintain a personal relationship with you and your child. At all times, we make it easy to see your doctor, offering quick and streamlined appointments to ensure that your child continues to get the best possible care.