As with any novel virus, new information is continually being gleaned as doctors and other infectious disease experts study the disease processes and examine its short and long-term effects and outcomes on those who become infected. This is, of course, the case with COVID-19. It is apparent that there are new developments almost daily in understanding the progression of this disease.
Evidence Builds That COVID-19 May Damage The Heart
With this knowledge, medical professionals are finding out some surprising and unexpected complications that go hand in hand with those diagnosed with this virus, including poor cardiac outcomes. COVID-19 heart damage and even COVID-19 heart attacks occur at an alarming rate compared to the general population or those with other viral illnesses. This has led doctors to begin an in-depth study of this link.
Cardiac injury is seen in a high percentage of COVID-19 patients, as seen in various imaging types, including an echocardiogram. Those presenting with concerning COVID-19 heart damage also demonstrate elevated blood levels of troponin, a chemical released in the body when there is damage to the heart’s muscle.
In more than one study, nearly 75% of participants infected with the novel Coronavirus showed some degree of cardiac abnormalities, including electrocardiographic abnormalities, increased inflammatory biomarkers, left ventricular wall motion abnormalities and dysfunction, and pericardial effusions.
Concerning Long-Term Effects
Long-term myocardial inflammation and cardiac involvement are found to be prevalent even in individuals determined to be clinically recovered from COVID-19. These findings were determined through the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Upon further analysis of these imaging studies, it seems that the severity of heart damage and possibly impending COVID-19 heart attack is independent of how severe the study participant’s COVID-19 case was.
This is obviously concerning since those with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 presentations could have serious post-illness cardiac damage that could be life-threatening and possibly overlooked. These alarming residual complications are occurring in those who had excellent cardiac health with no prior evidence of abnormalities or heart disease.
It is important to note a statistically significant increase in myocardial damage in males versus females and with more advanced age. This does not negate that COVID-19 heart damage doesn’t occur in those who are female or younger, and doctors should follow and screen all COVID patients for cardiac abnormalities.
Patients who are screened should be examined for myocarditis, as well. This inflammation of the heart muscle can lead to an increase in heart failure at a later time. By being proactive in screening patients for myocardial abnormalities upon their COVID-19 diagnosis, interventions can be implemented to hopefully protect their hearts from damage, as cardiac complications are indicated as a factor in nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths.
It is clear that there is a distinct tie between COVID-19 infection and cardiac complications, and continued medical research is imperative to improve recovery and long term patient outcomes.