Fulminant myocarditis can present with life-threatening arrhythmias and cardiogenic shock due to ventricular failure. The diagnosis of myocarditis usually requires histological and immunological information, as its aetiology may be infectious (viral or non-viral), autoimmune or drug related. The treatment of fulminant myocarditis depends on the underlying cause but usually includes high dose systemic steroids as well as physiological support. Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (V-A ECMO) can be used to support patients as a bridge to recovery by supporting biventricular function and decompressing the heart. V-A ECMO carries risks and complications of its own such as thrombus formation or bleeding. Different diagnostic modalities, such as transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) and transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE), are central to the monitoring of progression of disease and recovery of heart function. This case highlights the importance of early recognition and early support with V-A ECMO in fulminant myocarditis, as well as the role of repeated echocardiography when weaning from physiological support.
- Myocarditis is a life-threatening condition and early recognition of cardiac failure can be assisted with a bedside echocardiogram.
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is used as a bridging method of treatment for patients with cardiogenic failure in myocarditis but has its own risks related to anticoagulation and the procedure itself.
- There are currently no standardised guidelines of when to wean a patient off extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, but echocardiography acts as an important guide to detect complications as well as cardiac recovery.