Immunosuppressive therapy in acute myocarditis: an 18 year systematic review

Arch Dis Child. 2004 Jun;89(6):580-4. doi: 10.1136/adc.2003.034686.


Background: Immunosuppressive therapy is reportedly ineffective in adults with acute myocarditis.

Aims: To systematically review the impact of immunosuppressive therapy on the outcome of acute myocarditis in children.

Methods: A literature search for articles published from 1984 to 2003 was conducted with the following keywords: myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and immunosuppression. The relevant studies were systematically reviewed and comparison of treatment effect was made by calculating the odds ratio (OR) and confidence interval (CI) using the exact method based on the exact discrete reference distribution.

Results: Of the 1470 articles found, only nine studies were eligible. The odds for improvement with immunosuppression was between 4.33 (95% CI 0.52 to 52.23) and 2.7 (95% CI 0.59 to 14.21). Addition of a second immunosuppressive agent to prednisolone only proved effective in one randomised controlled trial (OR 0.09, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.52). Heterogeneity of these studies precluded pooled odds ratio.

Conclusion: Current data suggest that immunosuppressive therapy does not significantly improve outcomes in children with acute myocarditis and there is insufficient evidence for its routine use. However, statistical power to detect a significant difference in the treatment effect may be limited because of the small number of subjects. This, together with problems of diagnosis, varying treatment practices, and a relative lack of evidence based guidelines would support efforts for a large multicentre, randomised controlled trial to better define the role of immunosuppression in acute myocarditis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage*
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Myocarditis / drug therapy*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Azathioprine
  • Prednisone