New study and reports have found that the coronavirus has lasting impacts on the heart, and raising alarm for cardiologists who have been concerned about potential long-term heart injury from COVID-19. On Tuesday Two German studies published a study in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Cardiology that heart abnormalities in COVID-19 patients months after they had already recovered from the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
They have done the first study with 100 patients from the University of Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry who were relatively healthy adults in their 40s and 50s. In this study one-third of the patient’s required hospitalization, while the rest recovered from the home. The researchers have taken nearly two and a half months after they were diagnosed and compared them with cardiac magnetic resonance from people who never had COVID-19. From this study, the researchers have found heart abnormalities in 78 patients, with 60 of those patients showing signs of inflammation in the heart muscle from the virus.
Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an editor at JAMA Cardiology said in a statement that “When this came to our attention, we were struck.” And without this study the findings would have been virtually impossible to pinpoint also, the majority of patients didn’t exhibit any symptoms and these specific abnormalities detected by the MRI wouldn’t have been seen on an echocardiogram.
Some of the experts say that the prevalence of inflammation is an important connection to COVID-19 as the disease has a clinical reputation for a high inflammatory response. And heart inflammation could lead to the weakening of the heart muscle and, in rare cases, abnormal heartbeats, said Dr. Thomas Maddox, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Science and Quality Committee. Yancy also mentioned in a statement that the inflammation is the first prerequisite for heart failure and, over a longer period of time, could “leave important residual damage” that could “set up the scenario” for other forms of heart disease. “We’re not saying that COVID-19 causes heart failure… but it presents early evidence that there’s potential injury to the heart,” Yancy said.
Dr. Paul Cremer, a cardiovascular imager at the Cleveland Clinic says, although the inflammation is indicative of COVID-19, and having imaging before patients were sick could have strengthened the study’s argument that the disease could have caused these heart abnormalities. The findings and results have come after a Cleveland Clinic study published July 9 in the medical journal JAMA Network Open spotlighted the number of cases of “broken heart syndrome,” or stress cardiomyopathy doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress cardiomyopathy occurs in response to physical or emotional distress and causes dysfunction or failure in the heart muscle. Experts have also mentioned that more research is needed to understand the implications of these studies and their long-term effects on the heart. “We need to understand longer-term clinical symptoms and outcomes that might occur in patients who’ve had it and recovered,” Maddox said. “That will just take some time to look at as more and more people get the infection and recover.”