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The multidisciplinary specialists at UT Southwestern’s Heart and Lung clinic use leading-edge technology and the latest information to diagnose and treat cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that affects the heart.

We create comprehensive, individualized treatment plans to alleviate symptoms and support ongoing heart health.

Advanced Treatment for Cardiac Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a multisystem inflammatory condition that can involve any organ. Cardiac sarcoidosis occurs when granulomas – small clusters of inflammatory cells – lead to inflammation and/or scarring in the heart. This immune response may cause dangerous heart rhythms, heart failure, and even sudden cardiac death.

UT Southwestern’s multidisciplinary cardiac sarcoidosis care team includes experts in heart failure, electrophysiology, cardiac imaging, and pulmonology.

We develop a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s condition, needs, and goals, giving our patients the best opportunity for longer and healthier lives.

Causes and Risk Factors for Cardiac Sarcoidosis

While the cause of cardiac sarcoidosis is not known, scientists believe it results from an intersection of environmental factors and genetic predispositions.

Those at higher risk of developing cardiac sarcoidosis include:

  • People of African or Northern European descent
  • Those who have family members with cardiac sarcoidosis
  • Women (slightly higher risk than men)

Cardiac Sarcoidosis Symptoms

Symptoms of cardiac sarcoidosis include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow heart rhythms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Erratic heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Lower-extremity swelling
  • Heart failure

Diagnosing Cardiac Sarcoidosis

To diagnose cardiac sarcoidosis, we first conduct a physical exam and review medical and family history. We will then likely order more tests, including:

  • An endomyocardial biopsy, which uses a catheter to take a sample of heart tissue for examination
  • A biopsy of tissue outside the heart
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a test that makes images of the heart using a powerful magnet
  • Cardiac positron-emission tomography (PET scan), a test that uses nuclear medicine to make biochemical processes in the body visible
  • An echocardiogram, a type of imaging created by sound waves that travel through affected parts of the body
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG), a test used to evaluate the heart’s electrical activity
  • An assessment of data from an event monitor, or Holter monitor, a wearable device that tracks heart activity over a period of days
  • Extensive lab work

Cardiac Sarcoidosis Treatment

Treatment for cardiac sarcoidosis typically begins with medication, which may include:

  • Immunosuppressant drugs, such as steroids
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs, which control heart rhythm irregularities
  • Heart failure drugs (if this is a complication the patient is experiencing)

If cardiac sarcoidosis continues to cause heart irregularities, devices to regulate your heart rate or heart rhythm may be recommended. These include:

  • A pacemaker implantation to regulate heart rate
  • A defibrillator to prevent death from dangerous heart rhythms
  • Catheter ablation, the insertion of a small tube in the heart, to treat abnormal heart rhythms

In cases where cardiac sarcoidosis progresses to heart failure, an evaluation for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or heart transplant might be recommended.