Viral infection of the heart is relatively common and usually of little consequence. It can, however, lead to substantial cardiac damage and severe acute heart failure. It can also evolve into the progressive syndrome of chronic heart failure. Recent studies have gone some way towards unravelling the complex mechanisms underlying the heart muscle damage that occurs after viral infection. These studies have lent support to both immune and viral mediated (independent of an immune response) cardiac damage. Acute myocarditis can present in various ways, and it may be a cause of sudden death in an otherwise healthy young adult. New treatments for viral heart disease are awaited. In the meanwhile, the haemodynamic support of patients with acute left ventricular failure caused by myocarditis should be aggressive, to allow for the possibility of spontaneous recovery. Contemporary trials of treatment in chronic heart failure secondary to dilated cardiomyopathy support the use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, β adrenoceptor blockers, and spironolactone in such patients.
- heart failure
- coxsackie B virus
- dilated cardiomyopathy
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