What are the complications for dilated cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart muscle weakens and the heart becomes enlarged. If cardiomyopathy is caused by a virus, it may improve on its own. Medications may help the heart undergo this healing process. It is believed that about one-third of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy get better, one-third stay the same with reduced heart function, and the condition severely deteriorates in about one-third of patients. Cardiomyopathy related to muscular dystrophy or metabolic causes generally is progressive. Once cardiomyopathy becomes evident after chemotherapy treatment for cancer, it is also usually progressive.
In addition to reducing the heart’s ability to deliver sufficient blood to the body, the stretched and scarred heart muscles caused by cardiomyopathy may lead to abnormal heart rhythms, some of which may cause a life-threatening situation. Because of the sluggish flow created by the weakened pumping action of the heart, clots may develop within the heart. Blood clots are dangerous because they can break loose, travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the brain or lung, blocking blood flow and leading to stroke or death. 
As the heart becomes enlarged, the valves may become stretched, resulting in leakage. This leakage can place additional strain on an already sick heart. Not only does the weak heart have difficulty pumping blood to the body (heart failure), it may send blood backward through the valve that sends blood into the ventricle (the mitral valve).
As the heart becomes sicker, not only is the squeezing/pumping (systolic) action impaired, but the ability for the heart to relax in order to suck blood into it for the next pumping cycle suffers. This is called diastolic dysfunction. If leakage of the mitral valve worsens, this further impairs the ability of the heart to relax between pumping cycles. The heart becomes stiffer and blood backs up into the lungs. This results in congestion of the lungs and impairment of oxygenation of the blood. Furthermore, a back-up in blood pressure places additional stress on the lungs and can lead to the development of pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung arteries).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.