Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart’s muscle. Although rare, it can be devastating. Myocarditis can occur with no symptoms and remain undiagnosed.
In most children, the condition is often caused by a viral infection. Other potential causes include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Infections by bacteria, parasites, or fungus
Sometimes the cause cannot be found.
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 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
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. Many other causes of heart problems must be ruled out before the diagnosis can be made.
Your heart will be analyzed with:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) —to record the electrical activity of the heart
- Chest x-ray
- Echocardiogram —to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart
- Biopsy —removal of a sample of heart tissue to test for infection
- Cardiovascular magnetic resonance—to make detailed images of the heart
Blood tests may also be done to look for signs of infection or inflammation in the heart.
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 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.
To help prevent viral or bacterial infections, practice good hygiene. For example, have your child wash her hands regularly.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2012 -
- Update Date: 12/03/2012 -