Systemic sclerosis myocarditis has unique clinical, histological and prognostic features: a comparative histological analysis

Giacomo De Luca, Corrado Campochiaro, Maria De Santis, Silvia Sartorelli, Giovanni Peretto, Simone Sala, Giovanni Canestrari, Enrico De Lorenzis, Cristina Basso, Stefania Rizzo, Gaetano Thiene, Anna Palmisano, Antonio Esposito, Carlo Selmi, Elisa Gremese, Paolo Della Bella, Lorenzo Dagna, Silvia Laura Bosello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To outline the clinical, histological and prognostic features of systemic sclerosis (SSc) endomyocardial biopsy-proven myocarditis with respect to those of diverse endomyocardial biopsy-proven virus-negative myocarditis (VNM).

METHODS: We retrospectively analysed data from three cohorts of endomyocardial biopsy-proven myocarditis: SSc-related VNM (SSc-VNM); isolated VNM (i-VNM); and VNM related to other systemic autoimmune diseases (a-VNM). The degree of myocardial fibrosis was expressed as relative percentage and fibrotic score (0-3). Clinical data, cardiac enzymes, echocardiogram, 24 h ECG Holter and cardiac magnetic resonance were obtained at baseline and during follow-up. Non-parametric tests were used.

RESULTS: We enrolled 12 SSc-VNM [11 females, mean age 49.3 (14.2) years; seven diffuse-SSc, five early-SSc], 12 i-VNM [12 females, mean age 47.7 (10.8) years] and 10 a-VNM [four females, mean age 48.4 (16.3) years] patients. SSc patients had higher degrees of myocardial fibrosis as assessed by both percentage [SSc-VNM: 44.8 (18.8)%; a-VNM: 28.6 (16.5)%; i-VNM: 24.9 (10.3)%; P = 0.019] and score [SSc-VNM: 2.3 (0.8); a-VNM: 1.4 (1.1); i-VNM: 1.2 (0.7); P = 0.002]. Myocardial fibrosis directly correlated with skin score (r = 0.625, P = 0.03) and number of ventricular ectopic beats on 24 h ECG Holter in SSc patients (r = 0.756, P = 0.01). Dyspnoea class was higher at presentation in SSc-VNM patients (P = 0.041) and we found heart failure only in SSc patients (25%) (P = 0.05). At cardiac magnetic resonance, myocardial oedema was nearly undetectable in SSc-VNM patients compared with others (P = 0.02). All patients received immunosuppressive treatment. The number of patients who died during follow-up due to cardiac complications was significantly higher in SSc-VNM patients (50%), as compared with a-VNM (0%) and i-VNM (8.3%) patients (P = 0.006). Patients who died during follow-up had higher degrees of myocardial fibrosis [52.2 (11.6)% vs 27.5 (12.9)%, P = 0.024; fibrotic score: 2.83 (0.41) vs 1.4 (0.9), P < 0.001].

CONCLUSION: SSc has unique clinical and histological features, as it tends to present more frequently with heart failure and a higher dyspnoea class and to show higher degrees of myocardial fibrosis. These specific features are paralleled by a worse cardiac prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2523-2533
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2020


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