Cardiac Sarcoidosis

What Is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammatory granulomas to accumulate in and around organs, causing inflammation that can damage and destroy tissue. Cardiac sarcoidosis is when these granulomas accumulate in the heart.

What Causes Sarcoidosis?

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. However, granulomas that cause harmful inflammation are a non-specific immune response, which means that something causes the immune system to identify the affected tissue as foreign material.

What Are Some Symptoms Of Cardiac Sarcoidosis?

Because this disease can afflict nearly any tissue of the heart, there are several forms of cardiac sarcoidosis.

  • The disease may affect the heart's electrical system. This leads to heart rhythm disorders such as ventricular tachycardia, which can cause sudden cardiac death and occurs in about 25% of cardiac sarcoidosis patients.
  • Sarcoidosis may also affect the heart's walls, valves and pericardium. This can cause aneurysms, leaky valves, heart failure, and pericarditis.
  • A rare symptom of cardiac sarcoidosis occurs when the inflammatory granulomas appear in the arteries. The arteries may become blocked , leading to chest pain and possibly even heart attacks.

How Is It Diagnosed?

It is very difficult to diagnose this disease. An electrocardiogram may be used to test your heart for electrical problems, but sarcoidosis can be present in the heart without causing electrical symptoms. Imaging tests such as an MRI can be used to look for inflammation. The best way to confirm the existence of this disease in a patient is with a heart biopsy.

How Common Is Sarcoidosis?

Different races have different incidences of this disease. The incidence of sarcoidosis is 10.9 per 100,000 for whites, and 35.5 per 100,000 for blacks. Scandinavians have the highest prevalence of sarcoidosis at about 55 per 100,000.

As for cardiac sarcoidosis, it is estimated that about 25% of sarcoidosis patients have some form of cardiac involvement.

How Can It Be Treated?

The initial treatment is often corticosteroids, which have been known to improve chances of survival greatly. Because tachycardia may occur, it is sometimes necessary to implant a pacemaker, which keeps the heart beating at a normal pace. This disease does irreparable damage; a heart transplant is the only option if the damage is too severe. Patients with symptomatic cardiac sarcoidosis often only survive about 2 years.

Sources:

     Weinstein, Howard. "Cardiac Sarcoidosis: Overview." - National Jewish Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

    Doughan, Abdul R., and Byron R. Williams. "Cardiac Sarcoidosis." Heart. BMJ Group, Feb. 2006. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

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