Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

Image of normal heart.
Image of a normal heart
Dilated Cardiomyopathy Heart
Image of a heart with dilated cardiomyopathy.

What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

In DCM the heart's chambers dilate or get wider. When this happens, the heart can't pump blood as it should.

Dilated cardiomyopathy causes and risk factors

  • Heart attack.
  • Heart valve problem.
  • Familial or inherited (genetic).
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Infections.

In others, lifestyle choices cause DCM, like:

  • Using drugs.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Eating an unhealthy diet.

Types of inherited DCM

  • Familial DCM. In this type, there are changes in the genes (mutations) that make certain proteins that control how the heart functions. Over time, these gene changes cause the heart muscle to weaken, leading to dilated cardiomyopathy. These gene changes can be inherited from parent to child. Therefore, it is important to determine if the cause of your DCM is secondary to gene changes.

Dilated cardiomyopathy complications

  • Heart failure
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Sudden death

Why choose the Center for Inherited Heart Disease for familial dilated cardiomyopathy care?

At the center, you'll see:

  • A heart doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of genetic causes of dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Genetic counselors with expertise in inherited heart disease. 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) Symptoms and Diagnosis

Not everyone who has DCM has symptoms. You might have the disease and not know it.

Let your doctor know if you have the following symptoms:

  • Extreme tiredness, or fatigue.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Shortness of breath when you exercise or exert yourself.
  • Swelling in some parts of the body.

Also, talk with your doctor if you have family members who've had:

  • Heart failure.
  • A heart attack.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest.

They can help you make lifestyle changes that support your heart's health.

Diagnosing dilated cardiomyopathy

When you visit the Center for Inherited Heart Disease, you'll meet with a heart specialist and genetic counselor. They will assess and screen you to learn more about heart disease in your family.

Doctors use a few tests to diagnose DCM:

  • Genetic tests.
  • Blood tests.
  • Echocardiogram, or an ultrasound image of the heart.
  • MRI of the heart.
  • Heart catheterization, a test that uses injected dye to see how blood flows to the heart.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) Treatment

Our experts at the Center for Inherited Heart Disease work with you to design a DCM treatment plan tailored to you.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Being more active.
  • Controlling high blood pressure.

Medicine to treat DCM

Your doctor might prescribe drugs to:

  • Control or improve how your heart beats.
  • Manage how your blood flows.

Surgery for DCM

If lifestyle changes or medicine don't help your condition, you might need:

  • Heart surgery.
  • Ablation to correct abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Implanted devices that regulate your heartbeat.
  • Heart transplant.