Myocarditis—Child

Definition

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart’s muscle. Although rare, it can be devastating. Myocarditis can occur with no symptoms and remain undiagnosed.

Healthy Myocardium
normal heart section
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Causes

In most children, the condition is often caused by a viral infection. Other potential causes include:

  • Medications
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infections by bacteria, parasites, or fungus

Sometimes the cause cannot be found.

Risk Factors

There are no known risk factors for developing myocarditis.

Symptoms

Some children may have no symptoms. Those that do may have a variety symptoms that can appear slowly or come on suddenly. Children older than two years old may have fewer symptoms than babies.

Contact the doctor right away if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Flu-like complaints, including fever, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea , and weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Swelling of the face, feet, or legs
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased urine output

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There is no specific test for myocarditis. The diagnosis can usually be made based on the history, physical exam and test results. Many other causes of heart problems must be ruled out before the diagnosis can be made.

Your child's heart will be analyzed with:

Blood tests may also be done to look for signs of infection or inflammation in the heart.

Treatment

Your child will need bed rest. Physical activity should be avoided. Myocarditis may be relieved by treating the underlying cause if possible:

  • Antibioitcs may be given for a bacterial infection
  • Antiviral agents may be given if a virus in involved
  • Immunosuppressive or immunoglobulin therapy may be used if an autoimmune disorder is involved

Medication may also be given to support the heart function and remove extra fluid from the lungs or other body tissues.

Prevention

To help prevent viral or bacterial infections, practice good hygiene. For example, have your child wash their hands regularly.

Revisions

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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