The aim of this information sheet is to explain what Dilated Cardiomyopathy is, what effect it will have on a child and how it can be treated
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. Dilated means enlarged, cardio concerns the heart and a myopathy is a muscular disease. Dilated cardiomyopathy means that the left ventricle becomes stretched and ‘floppy’. DCM weakens the heart muscle so that it works less efficiently and cannot pump enough blood to the lungs and around the body. This can lead to breathlessness and fluid to build up within the body.
It is not always certain what causes DCM and it can develop at any age. Sometimes dilated cardiomyopathy can be inherited; sometimes it can develop from viral infections, certain medicines, or from autoimmune diseases for example.
DCM is often discovered because a child becomes tired easily, breathless, and perhaps has some swelling caused by fluids building up. There may also be a fast or slow heart beat and the doctor may hear an abnormal heart sound (heart murmur) through a stethoscope, or a large heart may be visible on an x- ray.
When a heart problem is suspected several tests may be used:
Treatment cannot cure DCM, but medicines can help your child’s heart to stabilise, and in many cases medicines reduce the risk of the condition getting worse. It is possible that your child may recover spontaneously.
If your child’s condition cannot be controlled using these treatments he or she may be assessed for a heart transplant.
For further support please contact the Cardiomyopathy UK at: 0800 018 1024 or visit their website: www.cardiomyopathy.org
Evidence and sources of information for this CHF information sheet can be obtained at:
(1) NHS Choices. London: NHS; 2017. Available at:
(2) National Institute for Health & Care Excellence. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators and Cardiac Resynchronisation Therapy for arrhythmias and heart failure. London: NICE; 2017. Available at
(3) Cardiomyopathy UK: Information about Dilated Cardiomyopathy. London: Cardiomyopathy UK; 2017. Available at:
(4) NHS Choices. London: NHS; 2017. Available at
About this document:
Published: Oct 2014
Reviewed: June 2017
Due for review: June 2019
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