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Cardiac Sarcoidosis (CS)

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease in which clusters of white blood cells, called granulomas, form in the tissues of organs. It most often impacts the lungs, but can also involve nearly every part of the body. When this condition strikes the heart – as it does in up to 25% of sarcoidosis cases – it is call cardiac sarcoidosis (CS). Cardiac sarcoidosis causes inflammation that can damage different parts of the heart, including the electrical system, muscle, valves, arteries, and surrounding tissue called the pericardium.

The exact cause of CS is not known, but studies suggest bacteria, viruses or chemicals might trigger the disease. The following genetic factors can increase the risk of developing CS.

  • Sarcoidosis occurs more often women than in men.
  • People of African-American descent are more likely to develop the condition.
  • People with a family history of sarcoidosis have a significantly higher risk of getting the disease.

Symptoms

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath (especially when lying down)
  • Coughing, chest tightness and/or wheezing
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting

Diagnosis

  • Chest X-ray or CT scan to check for granulomas and swollen lymph nodes
  • Biopsy to check a tissue sample for granulomas
  • Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG)
  • Holter monitoring 
  • Echocardiography
  • Nuclear imaging (with thallium and/ortechnetium sestamibi)
  • Cardiac positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Heart biopsy (in rare cases)
  • Electrophysiologic study (EPS)

Treatment

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Heart medications such as anti-arrhythmia drugs
  • A pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for people with serious arrhythmias or heart blockage
  • Heart Transplantation may be recommended in rare cases with severe heart damage

Contact us to learn more about our Electrophysiology team that provides regional patient treatment for CS and a range of heart rhythm disorders.

UT Erlanger Cardiology
Erlanger Medical Mall
979 East 3rd Street
Suite C-520
Chattanooga, TN 37403