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Cardiomyopathy Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Cardiomyopathy is a long-term and sometimes progressive heart disease. There are many types of cardiomyopathies — some make the heart muscle (myocardium) bigger and thicker, while others stretch the heart muscle so that the muscle doesn’t work as well. All types can damage heart tissue and make it difficult for the heart to pump blood through the body.

Cardiomyopathy can be passed down in families or happen as a result of infections, nutritional deficiencies, or other conditions.

Cardiomyopathy is the top reason for heart transplants in kids and teens. If left untreated, it can lead to a life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart valve problems, heart murmurs, blood clots, heart failure, and even death.

Signs and symptoms associated with cardiomyopathy include:

  • excessive fatigue after normal activity
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular heartbeat

Students with cardiomyopathy might need to:

  • take medications to reduce symptoms
  • visit the school nurse to take medications
  • have seating closest to a bathroom if they take blood pressure medicine that causes frequent urination
  • use elevators, wheelchairs, or assistive devices, and require extra time to get to classrooms

They also might:

  • have an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker and may be restricted from participating in contact sports and activities
  • wear a ventricular assistive device (VAD) to help with circulation
  • miss class time due to doctor appointments
  • have a special diet and need to carry a water bottle throughout the day
  • require the school to have an easy-to-access automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • be smaller than their peers and unable to participate in physical activities, making them a target for bullying

What Teachers Can Do

Teachers can be supportive of students with cardiomyopathy by being aware of any changes in symptoms and watching for signs of abnormal fatigue throughout the day.

Students with cardiomyopathy might need special considerations regarding missed instruction time, assignments, and testing. Usually, they’re encouraged to get modest exercise and should be able to engage in most daily instruction and assignments.

Make sure to know about any physician-recommended restrictions or limitations before having students with cardiomyopathy participate in physical activities.

Teachers also should know about any action plans or protocols in case of a cardiac emergency.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014