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Malar J. 2011 Jun 9;10:160. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-160.

Reduced cardiac output in imported Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

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University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Section Tropical Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Strasse 74, 20359 Hamburg, Germany.



Volume substitution remains subject of controversy in the light of effusions and oedema potentially complicating this highly febrile disease. Understanding the role of myocardial and circulatory function appears to be essential for clinical management. In the present study, cardiac function and cardiac proteins have been assessed and correlated with parasitological and immunologic parameters in patients with imported Plasmodium falciparum malaria.


In a prospective case-control study, 28 patients with uncomplicated and complicated P. falciparum malaria were included and findings were compared with 26 healthy controls. Cardiac function parameters were assessed by an innovative non-invasive method based on the re-breathing technique. In addition, cardiac enzymes and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were measured and assessed with respect to clinical symptoms and conditions of malaria.


Cardiac index (CI) as a measurement of cardiac output (CO) was 21% lower in malaria patients than in healthy controls (2.7 l/min/m2 versus 3.4 l/min/m2; P < 0.001). In contrast, systemic vascular resistance index (SVRI) was increased by 29% (32.6 mmHg⋅m2/(l/min) versus 23.2 mmHg⋅m2/(l/min); P < 0.001). This correlated with increased cardiac proteins in patients versus controls: pro-BNP 139.3 pg/ml versus 60.4 pg/ml (P = 0.03), myoglobin 43.6 μg/l versus 27.8 μg/l (P = < 0.001). All measured cytokines were significantly increased in patients with malaria. CI, SVRI as well as cytokine levels did not correlate with blood parasite density.


The results support previous reports suggesting impaired cardiac function contributing to clinical manifestations in P. falciparum malaria. Findings may be relevant for fluid management and should be further explored in endemic regions.

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