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.