Dilated cardiomyopathy

Alternative Names

Cardiomyopathy – dilated

Definition of Dilated cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged, and it cannot pump blood efficiently. The decreased heart function can affect the lungs, liver, and other body systems.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

There are many causes of dilated cardiomyopathy. Some of these are:


Symptoms of heart failure are most common. Usually, they develop slowly over time. However, sometimes symptoms start very suddenly and are severe. Common symptoms are:

Signs and tests

Cardiomyopathy is usually discovered when the doctor is examining and testing you for the cause of heart failure.


When the cause of the dilated cardiomyopathy can be found, that condition is treated. For example, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease should be treated. If alcohol or cocaine use is the cause, your doctor will ask you to stop using them. Sometimes, no specific cause can be found, but the treatments listed below will still be used.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome varies. Some people remain in a stable condition for long periods of time, some continue to gradually get sicker, and others quickly get worse. Cardiomyopathy can only be corrected if the disease that caused it can be cured.


Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/17/2010

Heart, section through the middle
Heart, front view

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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