Cardiac (Heart) Care

Heart monitoring and treatment

After the diagnosis of Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy, healthcare providers usually refer the person to an experienced heart specialist (pediatric cardiologist). Boys with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy develop cardiomyopathy (which means disease of the heart muscle). Healthcare providers look for cardiomyopathy by checking for changes in heart function. The goal of heart monitoring is to find and manage changes in heart function as soon as the changes happen. Cardiomyopathy is managed with medications. Sometimes medicines are started before there are any heart symptoms at all.

How often to have monitoring, and what is involved

Regular monitoring is important. Different healthcare providers may have different monitoring plans, but many plans look something like this: a heart check at the time of diagnosis, then every 1-2 years until age 10, and then every 6-12 months after age 10 (or more often if problems are noticed). In addition, healthcare providers should do a heart exam before a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy has general anesthesia.

Heart exams often include a history and physical exam, electrocardiogram, and transthoracic echocardiogram. Healthcare providers may consider using other testing, such as a multigated acquisition study (MUGA) or cardiac MRI.

To learn more:

  • Read PPMD's Fact Sheet on heart health.
  • “Cardiac Care” section of the TREAT-NMD recommendations
  • Bushby KMD et al. The management of cardiac complications in muscular dystrophy and myotonic dystrophy. In: Proceedings of 107th ENMC Workshop, Neuromuscul Disord 2003 13: 166-172.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery. Cardiovascular health supervision for individuals affected by Duchenne or Becker Muscular Dystrophy. Pediatrics 2005 116: 1569-1573.