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What is Myocardial Fibrosis?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Myocardial fibrosis is a condition that involves the impairment of the heart's muscle cells called myocytes. It belongs to a class of diseases collectively known as fibrosis, which denotes hardening or scarring of tissue. This is a condition that not only affects the heart, but also other organs such as the lungs and liver. Myocardial fibrosis is also referred to by the more general term of cardiac fibrosis.

Myocytes, which come from originating cells called myoblasts, are instrumental in controlling the heart rate by producing electrical impulses. Each myocyte cell has a collection of cylindrical filaments called myofibrils. These are the cell units that enable the heart to contract. Normally, myocytes form lines of cells in the heart.

In myocardial fibrosis, myocytes are replaced by tissue that is unable to contract. This happens when fibroblasts, which produce collagen to enable wound healing, provide excessive amounts of the protein. This results in a case of abnormal scarring, or fibrosis. This process hardens the heart, thus making it inflexible.

This condition usually affects the ventricles, which are the heart's pumping chambers. Its symptoms include chest pain, some abdominal swelling, nausea and fatigue. This usually indicates an array of heart problems, with progressive heart failure being a prime example. Other problems include accelerated heart rate, or tachycardia, and arrhythmia, the irregular electrical activity of the heart due to the loss of myocytes.

The myocardial heart condition is particularly common in Africa's subtropical regions. It is most severe in countries like Nigeria, where myocardial fibrosis is one of the leading causes of adult heart disease and the culprit in about a quarter of heart-failure cases in children. Other African countries similarly affected include Uganda and Mozambique. It is also especially prevalent in other substantially equatorial regions in the Indian subcontinent and South America.

No official cause has been established for myocardial fibrosis. Additionally, the disease is generally thought to be irreversible. Patients tend to have the condition at an advanced stage when diagnosed, since the symptoms are not particularly distinctive. This results in short survival rates. Most patients with this condition die within two or three years.

Despite the limited knowledge and poor prognosis of myocardial fibrosis, some progress has been made regarding the disease. For example, some researchers have suggested infections from diseases such as malaria, high-fiber diets and inflammation as causes. Also, it is suggested that certain proteins could reverse the hardening process by decreasing the development rate of fibroblasts, which ultimately can restore the heart's flexibility.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Jun 01, 2012

@anamur-- That's a good question. I'm not an expert, and I think you should talk with your physician about this.

The only thing I've heard about, that is said to contribute to myocardial fibrosis, is medications and supplements used to treat conditions like depression, especially 5-Hydroxytryptophan supplementation.

5-Hydroxytryptophan is a chemical that increases serotonin production. Serotonin is the "feel good" hormone that our body produces naturally. It is known to be too low in individuals who suffer from depression and they are sometimes prescribed 5-Hydroxytryptophan to help boost it.

Some doctors think that since this chemical can also be metabolized in the heart, it can lead to heart tissue scarring or make myocardial fibrosis worse if it exists.

I also have chronic heart disease and myocardial fibrosis in my family. I've been trying to read up on it to understand how it works, but it's a complicated condition and it appears that there is more than one cause. From what I've read though, I don't think it's genetic.

By serenesurface — On May 31, 2012

I read in a magazine that eating too much animal products like meat, milk and eggs can contribute to cardiac fibrosis. Has anyone else heard this or know about it?

We lost my aunt to cardiac fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases run in the family. Should I be worried about my risk of developing myocardial fibrosis?

Is there anything genetic about this condition? And have any other risk factors been proven to cause myocardial fibrosis other than malaria, inflammation and fiber-rich diets?

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