Myocarditis

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, usually as a result of other generalized infection or inflammatory disease.

What Causes Myocarditis?

Most cases, especially those in young people, are caused by viruses, such as the coxsackievirus, type B. In certain parts of the world (and previously in the United States), TB is a common cause of pericarditis.

How is Myocarditis Diagnosed?

Myocarditis may start with flulike symptoms over a month or two. The most common additional symptoms are disturbances in heart rhythm. If there is generalized weakening of the heart muscle, there also may be symptoms of heart failure. Myocarditis should be suspected if these symptoms appear during a widespread viral infection, especially if there is no previous history of heart disease. Unfortunately, some cases of myocarditis are diagnosed only after they have advanced to produce heart failure. A physical exam and chest x-ray and echocardiogram then show an enlarged heart and chest congestion. An electrocardiogram may indicate the damage to the heart's function.

How is Myocarditis Treated?

Most cases of myocarditis are self-limiting, and the heart symptoms will clear up as the overriding infection subsides. In some cases, drugs may be prescribed to treat specific cardiac symptoms, such as arrhythmias or heart failure. Rest to reduce the heart's workload is important, as is avoiding alcohol and other substances that may be toxic or irritating to the heart.

Many people recover from myocarditis and have normal heart function. In some cases, heart function remains impaired, and patients may require long-term medical therapy, a left-ventricular assist device, or heart transplantation.

Can I Prevent Myocarditis?

It is almost impossible to prevent myocarditis. Proper hygiene may help you avoid the infectious agents that sometimes manifest in this way.