It is known that people with cardiovascular diseases fall into one of the main risk groups for coronavirus. But even those who have not had such problems before can face serious consequences for a vital organ, scientists say.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, doctors learned that patients with coronavirus can develop damage to the heart muscle (myocardium). Chinese scientists found such an anomaly in one in five of hospitalized patients during the first wave of the pandemic and associated it with an increased risk of death of patients.
The myocardium can be damaged due to inflammation or disruption of its blood supply. A biomarker of myocardial damage is an increase in the level of the protein troponin in the blood. This condition occurs with heart attack or myocarditis. But doctors make such diagnoses only if the presence of a biomarker is accompanied by symptoms of these diseases. If there are no symptoms, it is simply damage.
Scientists from the UK have published data from the largest study to date in patients with severe COVID-19 who have been found to have elevated troponin levels after discharge. The sample included 178 people who were hospitalized before June 2020, 66% of them suffered from coronary heart disease before COVID-19. The control group included 40 healthy people for comparison.
To assess myocardial damage, patients were examined using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The majority of participants (89%) did not have damage to the left ventricle of the heart, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through the body. However, damage to the heart muscle was found in more than half of the patients (54%). 12 people showed signs of ongoing heart inflammation.
“It remains unclear whether these observed results represent a pre-existing underlying disease or changes associated with COVID-19,” the study authors said. In their opinion, larger studies are needed in order to assess the effects of COVID-19 on heart health.