Direct cocaine cardiotoxicity demonstrated by endomyocardial biopsy

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1989 Aug;113(8):842-5.


The morbidity and mortality associated with cocaine abuse has markedly increased in recent years. Although several articles indicate a possible connection of cocaine with coronary spasm and acute myocardial infarction, this study in seven patients with a history of cocaine abuse, who underwent endomyocardial biopsy, suggests that cocaine may cause direct toxicity to the myocardium. Myocardial specimens from five of seven patients showed multifocal myocyte necrosis, of which two specimens revealed focal myocarditis, while three specimens had changes consistent with dilated cardiomyopathy. Ultrastructurally, extensive loss of myofibrils and sarcoplasmic vacuolization were observed. It is postulated that the pathogenesis of acute cocaine-induced toxicity is direct destruction of myofibrils resulting in myocyte necrosis and that these changes may or may not be associated with interstitial inflammatory cell infiltrates. Long-term abuse of cocaine may lead to interstitial fibrosis and eventually congestive heart failure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Cocaine / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocarditis / chemically induced
  • Myocarditis / pathology
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure
  • Necrosis


  • Cocaine