How is cardiac toxicity characterized in diphtheria?

Updated: Jan 18, 2019
  • Author: Bruce M Lo, MD, MBA, CPE, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FACHE; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Cardiac toxicity typically occurs after 1-2 weeks of illness following improvement in the pharyngeal phase of the disease. It may manifest as follows:

  • Myocarditis is seen in as many as 60% of patients (especially if previously unimmunized) and can present acutely with congestive heart failure (CHF), circulatory collapse, or more subtly with progressive dyspnea, diminished heart sounds, cardiac chamber dilatation, and weakness. [19]

  • Atrioventricular blocks, ST-T wave changes, and various dysrhythmias may be evident.

  • Endocarditis may be present, especially in the presence of an artificial valve. [20]

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