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Dilated Cardiomyopathy

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Learn more about the UPMC Center for Inherited Heart Disease experts.

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.

Types of inherited DCM

  • Familial DCM. In this type, there are changes in the genes that make certain proteins that control how the heart muscle contracts. Over time, these changes make the heart muscle stretch, leading to dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy. Gene changes cause the muscle in the heart's left chamber to form in an abnormal way. The muscle becomes weak, lowering its ability to pump blood, and appears thick instead of smooth.

Dilated cardiomyopathy causes and risk factors

Doctors aren't always able to find the cause of DCM.

Some people get the disease due to another health issue, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • An infection. 

Some people inherit DCM. This means parents pass down mutated, or changed, genes that affect the heart.

About half of all people who have DCM inherit the disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy complications

People with DCM can develop heart failure, in which the heart doesn't function to its full ability.

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

Our expert care
At the center, you'll see:

  • A heart doctor specializing in DCM.
  • Genetic counselors with expertise in inherited heart disease.

Contact the Center for Inherited Heart Disease

Call the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at 1-855-876-2484.

>> Make an appointment.

>> Email us.

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. 

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.