Lymphocytic myocarditis presenting as unexplained ventricular arrhythmias: diagnosis with endomyocardial biopsy and response to immunosuppression

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1984 Oct;4(4):812-9. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(84)80411-8.


During a period of 18 months beginning in January 1982, a total of 65 patients were referred to the Miami Heart Institute for evaluation of either aborted out of hospital sudden death, ventricular tachycardia resistant to standard clinically directed antiarrhythmic medication programs or high grade ventricular arrhythmia (Lown class greater than or equal to IV B) with or without syncope. After complete evaluation including cardiac catheterization in all but 1 patient, 17 patients were identified in whom no obvious cardiac disease could be found. Twelve of the 17 underwent right ventricular endomyocardial biopsy. Six of the 12 biopsies demonstrated clinically unsuspected lymphocytic myocarditis (Group A). Findings in three of the remaining six biopsies were consistent with an early cardiomyopathy and in three were completely normal (Group B). Retrospective review of the clinical, laboratory, electrophysiologic, hemodynamic and angiographic data failed to identify a marker that reliably separated Group A from Group B patients. In addition to antiarrhythmic therapy guided by laboratory electrophysiologic study, all Group A patients were treated with prednisone and azathioprine. After 6 months of immunosuppression, all patients with myocarditis were reevaluated in the hospital without antiarrhythmic medication. Ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation could not be provoked in the laboratory during repeat electrophysiologic testing in five of the six patients. Repeat myocardial biopsy after all immunosuppressive therapy had been discontinued revealed absence of inflammation associated with varying degrees of residual interstitial fibrosis. There were no deaths. It was concluded that a patient with an otherwise clinically silent lymphocytic myocarditis can present with potentially life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / pathology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Biopsy*
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocarditis / complications
  • Myocarditis / diagnosis*
  • Myocarditis / drug therapy
  • Myocarditis / pathology
  • Myocarditis / physiopathology
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use


  • Azathioprine
  • Prednisone