When Lyme disease mimics a heart attack

Lyme disease has earned a reputation as the great imitator, because its symptoms can mimic many other illnesses. In a case report, presented by Gilson and colleagues from Easton Hospital in Pennsylvania, a 45-year-old woman was believed to be suffering from a heart attack when, in fact, her symptoms were due to Lyme disease. [1]


by Daniel J. Cameron, MD, MPH

According to the authors, Lyme disease mimicked a myocardial infarction (heart attack)  in a 45-year-old woman who presented with a sudden onset of chest pain, radiating to her neck. The evidence supporting a diagnosis of myocardial infarction was strong. A medical workup showed the woman had EKG changes, high admission levels of Troponin and CK-MB, and rising Troponin and CK-MB at 6 hours. Fortunately, the woman’s cardiac catheterization did not show any significant obstructive coronary artery disease.

She was diagnosed with Lyme disease 2 days later after she had developed a right-sided facial palsy. The diagnosis was confirmed by ELISA and positive IgM and IgG antibodies.

Treatment was successful with a combination of intravenous ceftriaxone and oral steroids.

“This is a rare case of Lyme myocarditis associated with markedly elevated Troponin I, normal left ventricle function, and an absence of conduction abnormalities,” writes Gilson.

The authors point out the difficulties diagnosing atypical manifestations of Lyme disease, stating, “Lyme myocarditis may be a challenging diagnosis in endemic areas especially in patients with coronary artery disease risk factors, presenting with typical chest pain, EKG changes and positive cardiac biomarkers.”

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The authors reminded doctors of the need to include Lyme disease in the differential diagnosis even in patients presenting with clinical symptoms suggestive of acute coronary syndrome.

Related Articles:

Lyme carditis causes complete heart block in 26-year-old man

12-year-old boy suffers cardiac arrest due to Lyme disease

What might sudden cardiac death due to Lyme disease look like?


  1. Gilson J, Khalighi K, Elmi F, Krishnamurthy M, Talebian A, Toor RS. Lyme disease presenting with facial palsy and myocarditis mimicking myocardial infarction. J Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2017;7(6):363-365.

5 Replies to "When Lyme disease mimics a heart attack"

  • Catherine
    02/18/2018 (3:00 am)

    PTLDS is a medical term implying that all medical treatment has failed, and that one’s only hope is to seek alternatives outside the medical system. Chronic Lyme Disease, on the other hand, is acknowledgment of a disease process that proceeds Borrelia infection and by nature of tick biology, may include multiple co-infections. Whether by ongoing infection, immune response, unknown factors or a combination of these, people are still sick and treatments still need to be explored. Please stop calling it post treatment.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/18/2018 (8:10 am)

      I am not happy with the term either. The 2006 IDSA guideline advised using the PTLDS label for patients still ill with functional limitations after 3 weeks of doxycycline. The term implies that the infection has cleared.

  • Suzie
    02/20/2018 (1:38 pm)

    My husband was 59 when he died from Lymes Carditis. All Lymes tests for the month prior were negative. The CDC and Minnesota Department of Public Health confirmed the results after his autopsy.

    • Pam
      02/21/2018 (1:34 pm)

      Just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the loss of your husband. Everything about this disease is horrible, including the lack of support from doctors and insurance companies, dismissal by the media and consequent ridicule from the public. So grateful to the medical professionals, researchers and patients who work tirelessly to change things for the better. Hoping you have some of those people in your life, and that those relationships provide the love and support you deserve.

  • Gretchen Bryan
    03/19/2018 (10:53 pm)

    This is how my Lyme story started 3+ years ago. I had symptoms of a heart attack, raised troponin levels. All other cardio test came back that as a 50 year old, I had the cardiovascular system of a 35 year old.
    I still have some palpitations, but my chest pain and back pain have cleared for the most part. My worst symptom is daily horrendous anxiety, major depression, crying jags. Still very scary for me EVERY DAY. Still in treatment.

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