Dilated cardiomyopathy (patient information)

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Dilated cardiomyopathy


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment Options

Where to find medical care for Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

There are several different types of cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common form.

What are the symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

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:

What causes Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Heart disease (which is caused by a narrowing of the arteries) and poorly controlled high blood pressure are the most common causes of dilated cardiomyopathy. These problems lead to a weakened and enlarged heart muscle.

There are many other causes of dilated cardiomyopathy, including:

This condition can affect anyone at any age. However, it is most common in adult men.


During the exam the health care provider may find:

  • The heart is enlarged
  • Lung crackles (a sign of fluid buildup), 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:

Heart enlargement or other problems with the structure and function of the heart (such as weak squeezing) may show up on these tests:

Heart biopsy, in which a small piece of heart muscle is removed, may be needed depending on the cause. However, this is uncommon.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of cardiomyopathy.

If chest pain, palpitations, or faintness develop seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

Treatment Options

Knowing your body and the symptoms that your heart failure is getting worse will help you stay healthier and out of the hospital. At home, watch for changes in your symptoms, heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and weight.

Limiting how much you drink and how much salt (sodium) you eat can help prevent or reduce these symptoms.

Most people who have heart failure need to take medicines. Some medicines treat your symptoms. Others may help prevent your heart failure from becoming worse or may prevent other heart problems.

Procedures and surgeries you may need are:

  • A pacemaker to help treat slow heart rates or help your heart contract in a more coordinated fashion
  • A defibrillator that recognizes life-threatening heart rhythms and sends an electrical pulse to stop them
  • Heart bypass (CABG) surgery or angioplasty to improve blood flow to the damaged or weakened heart muscle
  • Valve replacement or repair

For advanced cardiomyopathy:

Chronic heart failure becomes worse over time. Many people who have heart failure will die from the condition. Thinking about the type of care you may want at the end of life and discussing these issues with loved ones and your health care provider is important.

Where to find medical care for Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Condition

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Heart failure is most often a chronic illness, which may get worse over time. Some people develop severe heart failure, in which medicines, other treatments, and surgery no longer help. Many people are at risk for deadly heart rhythms, and may need medicines or a defibrillator.



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