Date: 31 Mar 2009

Autoimmunity and heart diseases: pathogenesis and diagnostic criteria

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Autoimmunity may evolve in predisposed individuals following an exogenous trigger. Autoimmunity is affected by genetic, immune, hormonal, and environmental factors. Immune mechanisms in heart diseases are complex and often not completely understood. Several cardiac disorders are believed to be mediated by an immune reaction. Both humoral and cellular immunity are associated with the development of myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, rheumatic fever, and atherosclerosis. Here the diagnostic criteria and autoimmune aspects of autoimmune-mediated cardiac disorders are reviewed. New diagnostic criteria for “autoimmune dilated cardiomyopathy” were recently suggested by the authors. They presume that establishing a dominant autoimmune etiology in some patients will have clinical significance because these patients will potentially gain the greatest benefit from immunosuppressive and immunomodulating treatments.