Left ventricular dimensions and function were assessed by serial M mode and cross sectional echocardiography in ten infants and young children with heart muscle disease characterised by left ventricular dilatation and impaired systolic function presenting in congestive heart failure, severe respiratory distress, or both. The patients were followed for 8-60 months after their initial admission. The aetiology was probably viral in all cases. One patient died three weeks after diagnosis. Left ventricular size and function returned to normal in only one child; however, various degrees of improvement were found in seven others who were symptom free at follow up. This study demonstrates that serial echocardiography adequately defines this disease in infants and young children and that invasive evaluation is seldom required. Furthermore, it emphasises the fact that even in symptom free children an echocardiographic picture that is indistinguishable from dilated cardiomyopathy may persist; such patients required continued follow up.
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