Heart Disease: Dilated Cardiomyopathy

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What Is the Treatment for DCM?

Treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy is aimed at decreasing the heart size and the substances in the bloodstream that enlarge the heart and ultimately lead to worsened symptoms:

Medications: To manage heart failure, most people improve by taking drugs, such as a beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor an ARB, and/or diuretics. If you have an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), your doctor may give you a medication to control your heart rate or lessen the occurrence of arrhythmias. Blood thinners may be used to prevent blood clots from occurring.

Lifestyle changes: If you have heart failure, sodium should be restricted to 2,000-3,000 mg per day -- for the rest of your life. Your doctor may recommend aerobic exercise, but don't do heavy weight lifting.

What Surgeries Are Used to Treat DCM?

People with severe DCM may need one of the following surgeries:

  • Cardiac resynchronization by biventricular pacemaker. For some people with DCM, stimulating both the right and left ventricles with this pacemaker improves the heart's ability to contract with more force, thereby improving symptoms and increasing the length of time you can exercise. This pacemaker also will help people with heart block or some bradycardias (slow heart rates).
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD). ICDs are suggested for people at risk for life-threatening arrhythmias or sudden cardiac death. The ICD constantly monitors the heart rhythm. When it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm, it ''shocks'' the heart muscle into returning to a normal rhythm.
  • Surgery. Conventional surgeries for coronary artery disease or valvular disease may be recommended. Some people may be eligible for surgical repair of the left ventricle or placement of a cardiac assist device.
  • Heart transplant

WebMD Medical Reference


Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute. The Cardiomyopathy Association. American Heart Association. Emedicine.

Reviewed by Michael F. Richman, MD, FCCP, FACS on February 29, 2012

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