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Dilated cardiomyopathy

  • Alternative Names

    Cardiomyopathy - dilated


    Symptoms of heart failure are most common. Usually, they develop slowly over time. However, sometimes symptoms start very suddenly and are severe. Common symptoms are:

    • Shortness of breath with activity or after lying down (or being asleep) for a while, or in infants while feeding
    • Swelling of feet and ankles (in adults)
    • Irregular or rapid pulse
    • Fatigue, weakness, faintness
    • Swelling of the abdomen (in adults)
    • Loss of appetite
    • Cough

    Other symptoms may include:

    • Chest pain
    • Decreased alertness or concentration
    • Failure to thrive (in children)
    • Low urine production
    • Need to urinate at night (in adults)
    • Shock

    Signs and tests

    Cardiomyopathy is usually discovered when the doctor is examining and testing you for the cause of heart failure.

    • Tapping over the heart with the fingers and feeling the area may indicate that the heart is enlarged.
    • Listening to the chest with a stethoscope reveals lung crackles, heart murmur, or other abnormal sounds.
    • The liver may be enlarged.
    • Neck veins may be bulging.

    A number of laboratory tests may be done to determine the cause:

    • Antinuclear antibody (ANA), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and other tests to diagnose autoimmune illnesses
    • Antibody test to identify infections such as Lyme disease and HIV
    • Serum TSH and T4 test to identify thyroid problems

    Children will have:

    • Poor growth
    • Pale skin
    • Difficulty feeding
    • Weak pulses in the legs and arms

    Heart enlargement, congestion of the lungs, decreased movement/functioning of the heart, or heart failure may show on these tests:

    • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)
    • Cardiac stress tests
    • Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography
    • Chest CT scan or MRI of the heart
    • Chest x-ray
    • Nuclear heart scan (MUGA, RNV)

    Other tests may include:

    • ECG
    • Heart biopsy

    Lab tests vary depending on the suspected cause.