Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (IDC) accounts for 25% of cases of heart failure in the United States. Understanding the relationship between an inciting event or agent and the development of IDC has progressed only recently. Once IDC has developed, treatment is palliative and little can be done to alter the natural course of the disease. Active myocarditis, a suspected precursor of IDC, is myocardial inflammation and injury without ischemia. The disease ranges from a self-limited flulike illness to one of serious consequence with arrhythmias, heart failure, or death. Many agents have been associated with myocarditis, and the clinical manifestations depend on an interplay between the inciting agent and the host response. The development of a murine model and the expanded use of endomyocardial biopsy using the Dallas criteria have increased our understanding of myocarditis and its sequelae. Therapy consists of managing symptoms using conventional medical regimens for heart failure. Immunosuppressive therapy should be reserved for patients with biopsy-proven disease who have failed conventional therapy. Continued deterioration warrants ventricular assistance and consideration of cardiac transplantation.