Some Notes on Cardiac Pathology

Please note that I made these for my own use but thought they may be useful to others!

Cardiac Pathology


Divided into diseases of the:

  1. Coronary arteries
  2. Endocardium (including valves)
  3. Myocardium (including congenital heart disease)
  4. Pericardium


  1. Coronary arteries


Any vascular disease can involve these (e.g. vasculitis) but atheroma is the important one.

Clinically: angina, unstable angina and myocardial infarction (due to superimposed thrombosis secondary to ulceration or fissuring).


Left coronary artery >

  • anterior descending > anterior septum and wall of left ventricle
  • circumflex branch > lateral wall of left ventricle


Right coronary artery > posterior septum and wall of left ventricle


Distribution of infarction:

  1. Subendocardial infarction due to severe, generalized disease.
  2. Focal due to blockage of a major artery.


 Complications of myocardial infraction:



Arrhythmias: ventricular fibrillation / heart block

Acute cardiac failure / cardiogenic shock




  • Mural (over the infract) which may be followed by systemic embolisation
  • Atrial thrombus (due to atrial fibrillation)
  • (DVT which may be followed by pulmonary embolization)



Rupture (due to softening of muscle):

  • Myocardium (leading to cardiac tamponade and death)
  • Papillary muscle (mitral incompetence)
  • Septum (left to right shunt)





  • Chronic cardiac failure.
  • Immune pericarditis (Desslers’s syndrome)



Cardiac aneurysm (due to fibrosis)


At any time:

Another infarct


  1. B) Myocardium





  • Viral e.g. Coxsackie
  • Bacterial e.g. Borrelia (Lyme Disease)


Toxic: e.g. Diphtheria


Immunological e.g. Rheumatic fever



Definition: Heart muscle disease not due to ischaemia, hypertension, valvular disease or inflammation


  1. Dilated cardiomyopathy: end stage of the above (which has burnt out), alcohol or pregnancy
  2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: autosomal dominant
  3. Restrictive cardiomyopathy: endomyocardial, fibro-elastosis, amyloid, haemochromtosis


Rheumatic fever

Preceded by streptococcal sore throat.

Type 2 hypersensitivity reaction (antibodies to streptococci cross react with antibodies to myocardium.


Clinical features

  • General: fever etc.
  • Skin: nodules
  • CNS: chorea
  • Heart:
  • Pericarditis
  • Myocarditis (Aschoff bodies- collections of macrophages)
  • Endocarditis including valves – may lead to chronic valve disease (see below)


Congenital Heart Disease


Risk factors: e.g. Down’s syndrome, rubella, thalidomide


  1. Left to right shunts e.g. atrial or ventricular septal defects ( if untreated may reverse
  2. Right to left shunt “ Cyanotic”

e.g. Tetralogy of Fallot:

  • large ventricular septal defect
  • pulmonary stenosis

3)  overriding of the aorta

4)  right ventricular hypertrophy



  1. C) Endocardium


Valve disease


Mitral valve:


Leads to dilation and hypertrophy of the left atrium

In incompetence there is, also, dilatation of the left ventricle



  • Post -inflammation: rheumatic fever
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Left ventricular failure
  • Myocardial infarction
  • “Floppy mitral valve syndrome”



  • Post-inflammation: rheumatic fever



  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Infective endocarditis



Aortic valve:



  • Age related calcification
  • Calcification of abnormal valve:

Congenital bicuspid

Post -inflammation: rheumatic fever


Leads to marked cardiac hypertrophy and the risk of sudden death



  • Post -inflammation: rheumatic fever
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Dilatation of valve ring e.g. Marfan’s syndrome


Leads to dilatation and hypertrophy



Infective endocarditis


Vegetations form on the valves


  1. Acute:

Pathogenic organism (e.g. staphylococcus aureus) and normal valve


  1. Subacute:

Less pathogenic organism (e.g. streptococcus viridans, from the mouth, or enterococci, from the gut) and an abnormal valve




  • Systemic features: Fever etc.
  • Embolisation of vegetations

Infected infarcts in the brain or kidneys

Splinter haemorrhages



Other causes of valve vegetations

e.g. marantic in patients with cancer



  1. D) Pericardium


Classified according to appearance

  1. Fibrinous e.g. myocardial infarction
  2. Serous e.g. rheumatic fever
  3. Purulent e.g. bacterial infection
  4. Haemorrhagic e.g. traumatic, tumour
  5. Fibrotic +/- calcification (chronic) = constrictive pericarditis g. TB



Pericardial haemorrhage:

  1. Myocardial infarction
  2. Dissecting aortic aneurysm


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *