Reviewed by Howard D. Weinberger, MD, FACC

How Can Sarcoidosis Affect the Heart?

Cardiac sarcoidosis can take many forms, some benign and others serious. These include:

Heart Rhythm Disorders

A complete block of electrical movement through the heart is the most common form of sarcoidosis of the heart. Alternatively, fast heart rhythms such as atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia can be present. Ventricular tachycardia occurs in almost 25 percent of people with cardiac sarcoidosis and is of particular concern since it can lead to sudden cardiac death. These possible complications may occur suddenly and without warning.

 

Heart Failure

Heart failure is another complication of cardiac sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis can cause the heart muscle to weaken and/or stiffen. This leads to fluid retention in the lungs, abdomen and lower extremities. In extreme cases, an aneurysm can form due to weakening of the heart wall. Granulomas can also infiltrate the heart valves, causing leaky valves, also resulting in heart failure.

 

Coronary Disease

Although rare, sarcoidosis of the heart can cause an inflammatory disorder of the heart arteries called vasculitis. In severe forms, vasculitis can lead to coronary artery blockages, chest pain, and ultimately heart attacks.

 

Pericardial Disease

Inflammation of the sac around the heart, called pericarditis, is another rare but important form of cardiac sarcoidosis.

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