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Frequency of Electrocardiographic Alterations and Pericardial Effusion in Patients With Uncomplicated Malaria

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Studies have proposed that malaria may lead to electrocardiographic (ECG) changes and pericardial inflammation. We aimed to investigate the frequency of ECG alterations, determined by ECG and Holter monitoring, and pericardial effusion in patients with malaria infection. We performed a prospective observational study of adult patients with uncomplicated malaria in Amazonas, Brazil. Peripheral blood smears, ECG, and bedside echocardiography were conducted before antimalarial treatment and repeated at follow-up after completed treatment. We evaluated the diagnostic value of PR-segment depression, PR-segment elevation, and Spodick's sign for detecting pericardial effusion. A subset of patients underwent Holter monitoring at baseline. Among 98 cases of uncomplicated malaria (55% men; mean age 40 years; median parasite density 1,774/µl), 75 had Plasmodium vivax, 22 Plasmodium falciparum, and 1 had mixed infection. At baseline, 17% (n = 17) had PR-segment depression, 12% (n = 12) PR-segment elevation, 3% (n = 2) Spodick's sign, and the prevalence of pericardial effusion was 9% (n = 9). ECG alterations had sensitivities of 22% to 89% and specificities of 88% to 100% for detecting pericardial effusion at baseline. PR-segment depression had the best accuracy (sensitivity 89%, specificity 90%). Of the 25 patients, 4 patients who did not have pericardial effusion, displayed nonsustained ventricular tachycardia, determined by Holter monitoring (median duration 43 hours). Follow-up examination data were obtained for 71 patients (median 31 days), for whom PR-segment depression, elevation, and pericardial effusion had reduced significantly (p <0.05). In conclusion, our findings suggest that ECG alterations may be useful to detect pericardial effusion in malaria and that these findings decrease after completed antimalarial treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American journal of cardiology
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022

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