Nearly 80% of Recovered COVID-19 Patients Show Signs of Heart Damage

A new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association paints a disturbing picture of the long-term effects COVID-19 has on the heart, even after a patient has recovered.

According to the study published on Monday, researchers found that 78 percent of patients had some type of long-term structural changes or damage, even for those people who reported mild coronavirus cases that did not require hospitalization. Infected patients were likely to have evidence of a biomarker usually found after a heart attack even two months after they'd recovered. At least 60 patients had signs of inflammation.

“The results of our study provide important insights into the prevalence of cardiovascular involvement in the early convalescent stage,” wrote lead author Valentina O. Puntmann, MD, PhD, University Hospital Frankfurt in Germany, and colleagues. “Our findings demonstrate that participants with a relative paucity of preexisting cardiovascular condition and with mostly home-based recovery had frequent cardiac inflammatory involvement, which was similar to the hospitalized subgroup with regards to severity and extent.”

The study also found that the severity of a patient's case did not matter. The team wrote that cardiac issues were found in patients with mild and extremely severe cases.

"The patients and ourselves were both surprised by the intensity and prevalence of these findings, and that they were still very pronounced even though the original illness had been by then already a few weeks away," Puntmann, a consultant physician, cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist at University Hospital Frankfurt in Germany, told UPI.

Researchers used cardiac imaging results of 100 patients who had been confirmed to have COVID-19 and had a negative swab test for the virus after two weeks in isolation. Researchers tracked the patients included in the University Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry between April to June 2020. Thirty-three patients who participated in the study required hospitalization with 28 of those requiring supplemental oxygen at one point during their stay. At least two patients were placed on a ventilator. All 100 participants underwent a standard cardiac MR imaging and compared to 50 healthy control patients and 57 risk factor-matched patients. The average age of the patients were 49 with two-thirds of them having recovered at home.

The team says additional research with a larger sample size should be pursued.

Photo: Getty Images

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