In medicine (cardiology), myocarditis is inflammation of heart muscle (myocardium). It resembles a heart attack but coronary arteries are not blocked.
Myocarditis is most often due to infection by common viruses, such as parvovirus B19, less commonly non-viral pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) or Trypanosoma cruzi, or as a hypersensitivity response to drugs.
The definition of myocarditis varies, but the central feature is an infection of the heart, with an inflammatory infiltrate, and damage to the heart muscle, ''without'' the blockage of coronary arteries that define a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or other common non-infectious causes. Myocarditis may or may not include death (necrosis) of heart tissue. It may include dilated cardiomyopathy.
- Chest pain (often described as "stabbing" in character)
- Congestive heart failure (leading to edema, breathlessness and hepatic congestion)
- Palpitations (due to arrhythmias)
- Sudden death (in young adults, myocarditis causes up to 20% of all cases of sudden death)
- Fever (especially when infectious, e.g. in rheumatic fever)
- Symptoms in infants and toddlers tend to be more non-specific with generalized malaise, poor appetite, abdominal pain, chronic cough. Later stages of the illness will present with respiratory symptoms with increased work of breathing and is often mistaken for asthma.
Since myocarditis is often due to a viral illness, many patients give a history of symptoms consistent with a recent viral infection, including fever, rash, diarrhea, joint pains, and easy fatigueability.
Myocarditis is often associated with pericarditis, and many patients present with signs and symptoms that suggest concurrent myocarditis and pericarditis.
A large number of causes of myocarditis have been identified, but often a cause cannot be found. In Europe and North America, viruses are common culprits. Worldwide, however, the most common cause is Chagas' disease, an illness endemic to Central and South America that is due to infection by the protozoan ''Trypanosoma cruzi''.
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Last Updated: Apr 18, 2013