Associazione Nazionale Medici Cardiologi Ospedalieri



Cardiovascular involvement in Systemic Lupus erythematosus

de carlini caterina chiara merate(lecco) – osp mandic | loffreno antonella desio(monza e brianza) – osp PIO XI | chiappa luisa desio(monza e brianza) – Osp Pio XI


Cardiovascular involvement is frequent in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Aortic insufficiency is a common valvular abnormality seen in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), it may be caused by a primary valve pathology or by an aortitis One of the cardiac manifestations associated with SLE and antiphospholipid syndrome (APLS) is Libman-Sacks endocarditis, also known as non-bacterial thrombotic endocarditis Although rare, there are reported cases of lupus aortitis which has also been associated with dissection, aneurysm and thrombus


We present a case of a 40 -years-old lady with lupus glomerulonephritis requiring immunosuppression and dialysis, who presented to the emergency department with fever and dyspnea. She was first treated with dialysis. Blood cultures drawn from central venous catheter peripheral were positive for staphylococcus epidermidis, the cultures from peripheral blood was negative instead.Transthoracic and transesophageal Echocardiography showed severe aortic regurgitation (not present three month earlier) with doubt valvular vegetations and with a focal enlargement of the aortic root (figure 1, 2).The patient met one major criterion (blood culture) and two minor criteria (high risk and fever), implying possible infective endocarditis. The patient was then started on intravenous antibiotics (vancomycin ) and immunosuppression was reduced.

Given the hemodynamic instability due to the severe aortic insufficiency, an Heart CT scan was performed to planned the surgical intervention.

The CT scan confirmed the presence of small, multiple vegetation attached to the aortic leaflet and an aortic dissection on the right coronary cusp (figure 3). She proceeded to urgent surgery with aortic valve and aortic root replacement, the histology revealed evidence of Libman-Sacks endocarditis and aortitis.


Our patient showed two different cardiovascular complications of SLE: the more frequent Libman -Sack endocarditis and the rare lupus aortitis associated to aortic dissection.The patient had risk factors for infective endocarditis and she did fulfil the modified Duke’s criteria for infective endocarditis and was treated with antibiotics and with a reduction of immunosuppression therapy. In fact, it can be difficult to distinguish between infective endocarditis and Libman-Sacks endocarditis especially in the setting of risk factors for both. Antibiotics and immunosuppressants should be used both.