Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that can affect many different organs. It is characterized by collections of inflammatory cells, called granulomas. It is not entirely clear what causes these granulomas to form, but it is thought that it may be related to the body’s own immune system response to an infection (a virus or bacteria). There is also likely some genetic component, which is why sarcoidosis sometimes runs in families.
Sarcoidosis affects the heart in two main ways. The granulomas can deposit in the heart muscle causing:
- Problems with the conduction system of the heart – leading to either a slow or fast heart rhythm
- A weakened heart muscle resulting in heart failure
It is difficult to diagnose cardiac sarcoidosis. The diagnosis may be considered in younger people who present with slow heart rhythms. The diagnosis may also be considered if sarcoidosis is found to affect other organs (like the lungs).
The two main tests to diagnose cardiac sarcoidosis are a PET scan and a cardiac MRI. Other tests like an ECG, ECHO, holter monitor, a coronary angiogram or heart biopsy may also be performed.
Because sarcoidosis is thought to involve the body’s immune system, the treatment is immunosuppressive medications, usually corticosteroids (like prednisone). Other device therapies, like a pacemaker or ICD may be considered.