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

In the June issue of Clinical Case Reports, doctors describe a 26-year-old man with complete heart block due to Lyme carditis. The man, who had no significant medical history, had been on a fishing trip three weeks prior to being admitted to the hospital. He reported having a mild erythematous rash, along with a tick bite on his right second toe, which became swollen but resolved within 2 days. Two weeks later, he began having episodic fevers and chills and developed a well-circumscribed macular rash on his left upper abdomen.

The patient was evaluated in the emergency room with presyncope (lightheadedness, muscle weakness) and worsening fatigue. Telemetry monitoring demonstrated a “2:1 AV block alternating with complete heart block and a junctional escape rhythm in the range of 30 beats per minute,” according to Chaudhry and colleagues. [1]

Doctors suspected Lyme disease and started intravenous ceftriaxone, but within 24 hours the man’s condition had worsened. “Twenty-four hours after admission, he had loss of junctional escape with underlying complete heart block and asystole with near syncope,” describes Chaudhry from the Department of Cardiology and Electrophysiology, Aultman Hospital, Ohio.

[bctt tweet=”Lyme carditis is caused by direct cardiac invasion by spirochetes.” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

The man required a pacemaker. “Emergent right subclavian access was obtained for temporary pacing and placement of an active fixation permanent pacemaker lead,” explains Chaudhry. Serologic tests were positive by ELISA and confirmed with the Western Blot IgM.

“Lyme carditis is a dreaded complication of disseminated Lyme disease and is caused by direct cardiac invasion by spirochetes,” he states.

The authors summarize the underlying pathology. “There is initially a transmural inflammation with macrophages and neutrophils followed by a band-like appearance of lymphocytes. Interstitial fibrosis, as well as small and large vessel vasculitis, pericarditis, myocarditis, acute coronary syndromes, and coronary artery aneurysms can potentially occur.”

The placement of an external pacemaker enabled the patient to be discharged home after 12 days while he continued to recover on IV antibiotics. His pacemaker was removed at day 19.


Related blogs:

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

First case of reversible complete heart block due to Lyme disease reported in Canada

Another Lyme carditis case

How Lyme myocarditis might present in an adolescent patient



  1. Chaudhry MA, Satti SD, Friedlander IR. Lyme carditis with complete heart block: management with an external pacemaker. Clin Case Rep. 2017;5(6):915-918.

5 Replies to "Lyme carditis causes complete heart block in 26-year-old man"

  • Douglas Thorburn
    02/24/2023 (8:41 am)

    After surviving 4 cardiac arrests due(back to back to back to back) to Lyme Carditis, I received an implant. Looking back at the day of the Cardiac arrests, I recall the symptoms being identical to heart attack patients. i.e. muscle weakness, headaches, neck pain, arm weakness, fatigue, etc. Warning to all: Do not ignore these symptoms even though it’s not recognizable. It will kill you if it goes unchecked.

  • dana migliaccio
    09/03/2018 (11:45 pm)

    I had complained of palpitations for years, EKG, Echo, Holter all normal. Then thought I was having a heart attack but it was Supraventricular tachycardia, had an ablation and spent 6 days in the ICU. Because I didn’t have a fever they ignored the fact I said I had Lyme but wasn’t CDC positive anymore. Now I need another ablation my heart is fluttering and keeping me up at night……I need a real doctor!

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      09/04/2018 (1:34 am)

      There is not enough known about cardiac manifestations of Lyme disease. I would be reasonable to see a doctor with experience treating Lyme disease as part of your evaluation particularly given you apparently had Lyme disease in the past.

    • Pete
      05/22/2019 (12:50 am)

      Hi dana, did you ever take antibiotics for Lyme prior to the palpitations?

  • Michael Nehlsen
    06/22/2017 (12:32 pm)

    I have the same thing…..pacemaker in for a moth now…..they called it AV node dysfunction

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