The cardiac conduction system in progressive systemic sclerosis. Clinical and pathologic features of 35 patients

Am J Med. 1976 Sep;61(3):361-6. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(76)90373-9.


Progressive systemic sclerosis may be associated with focal myocardial fibrosis. Electrocardiographic abnormalities including conduction block are common in progressive systemic sclerosis but whether they are due to direct destruction of the specialized conduction tissue of the heart is uncertain. The conduction systems of 35 patients with progressive systemic sclerosis were studied. Of these 35 patients, 17 (50 per cent) had myocardial fibrosis of the type seen in progressive systemic sclerosis. In 10 of the 17, it was severe. Sinus node fibrosis was present in 13 patients and was nearly as frequent in those with as in those without the progressive systemic sclerosis myocardial lesion. Overlying pericarditis may have contributed to the fibrotic changes within the sinoatrial nodes in seven of the 13 patients. The atrioventricular node and main His bundles were normal. However, fibrotic changes were found in the proximal bundle systems in six patients. In three of the six, severe myocardial progressive systemic sclerosis was present, two had focal fibrous atrophy of the left bundle, and one had complete interruption of the right bundle. In only the latter patient was this reflected in the electrocardiogram which showed a right bundle branch block. Three patients without progressive systemic sclerosis myocardial lesions also had fibrous atrophy of a portion of the proximal left bundle branch, and in one the electrocardiogram showed an isolated left anterior hemiblock. Thus, morphologic abnormalities within the conduction system in our patients are difficult to attribute to progressive systemic sclerosis per se. Furthermore, although conduction abnormalities were more frequent in patients with myocardial disease, specific conduction system disease was not the cause in most patients. As has been noted in ischemic heart disease, the conduction system appears to be relatively spared from the myocardial changes of progressive systemic sclerosis, and the high incidence of conduction disturbances in this condition may be a consequence, rather, of damage to working myocardium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrioventricular Node / pathology
  • Endomyocardial Fibrosis / pathology
  • Female
  • Heart Conduction System / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / pathology*
  • Sinoatrial Node / pathology