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Healthy Myocardium  
normal heart section

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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.

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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.

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Risk Factors  

There are no known risk factors for developing myocarditis.

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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
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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.

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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.

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Prevention  

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