Recovered COVID-19 patients had lasting heart damage, flags study

Around 80 of the 100 patients whose cardiovascular MRIs were examined had some structural changes to heart, finds peer-reviewed study

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 30 July 2020

A lesser known fact about the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the toll it can take on the heart. A study by the University Hospital Frankfurt has offered some insight: Around 80 of the 100 patients whose cardiovascular MRIs were examined after they recovered from COVID-19 had some structural changes to their heart.

The study, published on July 27, 2020 in journal JAMA Cardiology, found the disease inflicted damage on the organ long after the patient had recovered and in cases where the infection was not even severe to begin with.

The MRIs of the 100 infected patients were compared with those who did not carry the infection, two months after the first group recovered from the disease. According to the study:

At least 78 patients showed structural changes to their hearts irrespective of preexisting conditions, the severity and overall course of the COVID-19 presentation, the time from the original diagnosis, or the presence of cardiac symptoms; 76 had evidence of a biomarker signaling cardiac injury typically found after a heart attack; and 60 had signs of inflammation.

Of the 100 patients, 67 recovered at home, while 33 required hospitalisation. At least 53 patients were male; the median age was 49.

Another study, published the same day, analysed autopsy results from 39 people who died of COVID-19 and whose average age was 85. It found high levels of the virus in the hearts of 24 patients. 

According to the study: “Cardiac infection with SARS-CoV-2 was found to be frequent among these patients, but it was not associated with myocarditis-like influx of inflammatory cells into the myocardium (cardiac muscle tissue)”.

SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The study added that among individuals with cardiac infection, inflammation of the heart muscle was not observed in the acute phase, but the long-term consequences of this cardiac infection “needed to be studied”.

Valentina Puntmann, who led the study, told Statnews: “The fact that 78 per cent of ‘recovered’ patients had evidence of ongoing heart involvement means that the heart is involved in a majority of patients, even if COVID-19 illness does not scream out with the classical heart symptoms, such as anginal chest pain.”

She added that the clear onset of COVID-19 illness provides an an early window to take proactive action.

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