Giant cell myocarditis: most fatal of autoimmune diseases

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Aug;30(1):1-16. doi: 10.1053/sarh.2000.8367.


Objective: To increase awareness of giant cell myocarditis (GCM), its pathogenesis, and treatment.

Methods: Review of relevant publications from the English-language literature.

Results: GCM is a rare, frequently fatal inflammatory disorder of cardiac muscle of unknown origin, characterized by widespread degeneration and necrosis of myocardial fibers.Congestive heart failure and ventricular tachycardia are common clinical manifestations. GCM occurs primarily in previously healthy adults, although it is frequently associated with various systemic diseases, primarily of autoimmune causes. The inflammatory infiltrate is characterized by the presence of multinucleated giant cells and is distinct from cardiac sarcoidosis. Animal models of GCM are similar to models of other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. The prognosis, which is poor despite partial responsiveness to immunosuppressive medications, is improved with cardiac transplantation.

Conclusions: The clinical and immunopathogenetic similarities with classical rheumatologic diseases, the differential diagnosis with sarcoidosis and other inflammatory conditions, and the use of standard immunosuppressive medications make GCM a disease process that should be added to the rheumatologist's expertise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiomyopathies / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Giant Cells / immunology
  • Giant Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Myocarditis / diagnosis
  • Myocarditis / etiology
  • Myocarditis / immunology*
  • Myocarditis / pathology*
  • Myocarditis / therapy
  • Rheumatic Diseases / complications
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnosis