BACKGROUND: Myocarditis can manifest with lone ventricular tachyarrhythmias (LVT). Elective inflammation of conduction tissue (CT) is supposed but unproved.
METHODS: Forty-two of 420 patients with biopsy proven myocarditis presented with LVT. Twelve of them included CT sections in endomyocardial biopsies. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for viral genomes, immunohistochemistry for viral antigens and Toll like receptor 4 (TLR4) were performed. Twelve myocarditis patients with infarct-like or cardiomyopathic phenotype and CT included in tissue section were used as controls.
RESULTS: Four of the 12 patients presented non-sustained ventricular tachycardia (nsVT), six with sustained ventricular tachycardia (sVT), two with ventricular fibrillation. CT was inflamed in all LVT patients and not in controls (p < 0.001). PCR was positive for influenza-A virus in two, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2) in one and adenovirus in one with positive CT immunostaining for viral antigens. In eight patients, negative PCR and TLR4 overexpression suggested an immune-mediated pathway. Patients with influenza-A myocarditis and CT infection responded to oseltamivir, those with HSV2 (Herpes Virus 2) and adenovirus infection died. The eight patients with immune-mediated myocarditis were treated with steroids and azathioprine. Seven of them had no more VT(ventricular tachyarrhythmias)during six-month follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: Arrhythmic phenotype of myocarditis is associated with CT inflammation/infection. Molecular characterization of CT damage may lead to pharmacologic control of arrhythmias in 75% of cases.