Dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common form of cardiomyopathy, is a chronic disease in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weakened, and thus cannot efficiently pump blood. The condition begins in the ventricles and, in severe cases, spreads to the atria. This can cause arrhythmia, blood clots, pulmonary edema, and even heart failure. There are many causes of dilated cardiomyopathy. Stress, alcohol, cocaine
abuse, exposure to lead, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune illnesses, pregnancy, genetics, coronary artery disease, Lyme disease, infection, heart disease, and myocarditis are just some of the causes of this condition, if the cause is discovered at all. While the most common sufferers of dilated cardiomyopathy are adult men, the condition can affect anyone at any age. Dilated cardiomyopathy is usually treated by finding the source. When a source cannot be found, doctors concentrate on reducing the symptoms and preventing any further damage. Drugs prescribed for treatment include ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics, anticoagulants, and vasodilators. Other times, devices like pacemakers or LVADs may be implanted. There is no cure, only treatment.
With children, the most common treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy after medication is transplantation, which poses a problem, as there is some difficulty in finding donors. In 40 percent of cases affecting children, medical treatments are not enough to stem the illness and, if transplantation is not an option, the most likely outcome is death. Currently, there are no available medical therapies that can effectively treat dilated cardiomyopathy in a large percentage of affected children. It is important to find other ways besides transplant to combat dilated cardiomyopathy in children. In 2004, a study was published about the possible uses for human growth hormone in treating dilated cardiomyopathy in children. In animals and adults, when the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is decreased serum levels of growth hormone, the application of growth hormone was shown to improve the function of the left ventricle and aid in the acquisition of ventricle mass. The study administered to the eight participants either a conventional therapy combined with the recombinant growth hormone or only the conventional therapy. Although two participants had to drop out to undergo transplant procedures, the results were that patients who underwent the growth hormone therapy had a higher level of improvement overall than those who only received the conventional therapy, and that they continued at this higher improvement level 6 months after discontinuing the growth hormone treatment. The one major side effect that affected all participants who were administered growth hormone was
an increase in height. However, the growth hormone presented no significant adverse side effects that would prevent it from becoming a viable supplement to current medical therapies. The results are promising; however, because of the limited scale of the 2004 study, the results are not enough to say with any certainty whether growth hormone should be used as an alternative to current treatment options. More studies, on a larger scale, will have to produce the same results before it can be said that growth hormone is a viable alternative.
Mayo Clinic – mayoclinic.com
American Academy of Pediatrics - pediatrics.aappublications.org
Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation -