• The Heart House


"Cardio" means "heart", "myo-" means "muscle", "-pathy" means "pathology" or abnormality. Therefore, "Cardiomyopathy' literally means abnormality of the heart muscle. Therefore, there is an intrinsic, inherent abnormality in either the structure or function of the heart. There are several different types of cardiomyopathy, depending on how the heart muscle looks. Cardiomyopathies may either be inherited, or may be acquired later in life, depending on the cause. The three major categories of cardiomyopathy include "hypertrophic cardiomyopathy", "dilated cardiomyopathy", and "restrictive cardiomyopathy". A brief discussion of each type of cardiomyopathy follows. From now on, "cardiomyopathy" will be abbreviated as "CM".

Read more: Cardiomyopathy

Inflammation of the Heart

The heart is made up of 3 basic layers: an inner layer, outer layer, and middle layer. The inner layer of the heart is called the endocardium. The outer layer of the heart is called the pericardium. The middle layer of the heart (consisting of the actual myocytes, or muscle cells) is called the myocardium. Inflammation of the heart may affect only one layer, or may extend from one layer to the next. 




"Myo-" means muscle. "Card-" means heart. "-itis" means inflammation. So, myo-card-itis literally refers to inflammation of the heart muscle. The vast majority of cases of myocarditis are caused by infections (ie, viruses, bacteria, etc.), particularly by viral infections that involve the heart. Therefore, the majority of patients with myocarditis will have fevers at the time of diagnosis. Other causes include  auto-immune disorders (conditions where one's own immune system becomes over-reactive and attacks itself), systemic disorders (conditions that cause wide-spread, diffuse, "systemic" inflammation),  insect stings, chemotherapy, and certain medications. 

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Rheumatic Fever / Rheumatic Heart Disease


Rheumatic fever is an auto-immune inflammatory process that occurs as a result of infection with streptococcus bacteria ("strep infection"). The inflammation typically occurs following throat infection ("strep throat"), though fortunately only occurs in less than 3% the population. The inflammation in rheumatic fever may involve the brain ("nervous system"), joints, skin, and heart. When the inflammation affects the heart, rheumatic heart disease results. Not all cases of rheumatic fever result in rheumatic heart disease. Not all types of streptococcal bacteria that cause strep throat can cause rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever appears more prevalent in areas of extreme crowding and low socioeconomic status.   

Read more: Rheumatic Fever / Rheumatic Heart Disease

Kawasaki Disease


Kawasaki Disease is a “vasculitis” that affects small or medium-sized blood vessels of the body (“vasculo”- refers to the blood vessels, “-itis” means inflammation). The etiology of Kawasaki Disease is unknown, although research suggests that an infectious agent (ie, viruses) results in an exaggerated “auto-immune” process resulting in a cascade of inflammation that involves the blood vessels.  Almost any blood vessel in the body may be affected, although this may also involve the coronary arteries of the heart, which are very small arteries that supply the heart muscle with it’s own blood supply. The result is dilation or “ectasia” of the arteries. Significant dilation may weaken the blood vessel walls, resulting in “aneurysm” formation.

Read more: Kawasaki Disease

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Contact Us

Children's Heart Institute

P. O. Box 10066 McLean, VA 22102

Central Registration (patient appointments):

phone - 703-481-5801

Billing Inquiries:

phone - 571-612-2600 /  fax - 571-266-4096