Acute alcohol consumption causes myocardial inflammation

Acute alcohol consumption is known to induce a systemic inflammatory reaction that might lead to alcohol-induced myocardial inflammation. Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is capable of detecting both acute inflammation and fibrosis of the myocardium; the authors of this paper therefore set out to investigate whether binge drinking could indeed induce myocardial inflammation.

Healthy volunteers were given vodka over 3–4 h to induce a blood alcohol level of >0.6 g/l. Each volunteer underwent cardiac MRI before, 1 day after, and 1 week after the acute alcohol intake.

Left ventricular volumes and systolic function were unchanged throughout the study. However, a significant increase in the median myocardial signal intensity (indicative of myocardial inflammation) was seen one day after the acute alcohol intake, and three of the patients with abnormal T2 images developed mild pericardial effusions. No areas of late gadolinium enhancement were seen and all MRI parameters had returned to normal by one week.


This study suggest that binge drinking can lead to transient myocardial inflammation. Although further studies are warranted, repeated alcohol intake may lead to more chronic myocardial inflammation which may have longer-term effects.

▶ Zagrosek A, Messroghli D, Schulz O, et al. Effect of Binge Drinking on the Heart as Assessed by Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging. JAMA 2010;304:1328–30.

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